A shop near the centre of Northampton has had it licence suspended after illegal cigarettes were found hidden in the premises.
Trading Standards staff first caught staff at the Ja Ja Grocery Store, in Kettering Road, selling illicit cigarettes on February 6 last year.
On April 4, they then caught staff selling cigarettes to a 15-year-old.
In September, Trading Standards officials raided the shop and found 2,050 packets of illicit cigarettes. Almost 200 packs were counterfeit while the rest had been imported into the country illegally from places such as Russia.
During a hearing at Northampton’s Guildhall today, Paul Maylunn, from Trading Standards, told councillors the cigarettes had been found hidden both in the shop and at a flat above the premises.
He said: “We found a box of illicit tobacco in the shop itself, more was hidden down the grill of a fridge and there was more in a cupboard.
“Upstairs, there was a wardrobe packed full of tobacco and a suitcase that was also packed full.”
He estimated the illicit tobacco would have been sold for between £8,000 and £9,000.
He also expressed serious concerns about the management of the shop as Bakhtiyar Hamad, who has since sold the business and is no longer involved in its management, is still listed as the store’s designated premises supervisor (DPS), the person with responsibility for running the business.
Mr Hamad, who did not attend today’s hearing, was taken to court for selling illicit cigarettes in November last year and fined a total of £2,017.
But the shop’s current owner, Shaho Abdulla, who bought the business three months ago, said Mr Hamad had no involvement in the shop now.
He told councillors: “When I bought the shop, I’d never heard of Mr Hamad. I’ve never seen him and it’s my shop now.”
After considering the case for almost an hour, Northampton Borough Council’s licencing committee decided unanimously to suspend the shop’s licence for three months.
The decision means alcohol can no longer be sold from the store.
Mr Abdulla has 21 days to appeal against the council’s decision. The suspension would also be revoked if a new DPS was appointed at the store.