Five hundred packs of illegal cigarettes found behind secret door in Northampton shop

The secret compartment above the back door was full of cigarettes
The secret compartment above the back door was full of cigarettes

The premises licence of a Northampton shop will be reviewed after trading standards officers found hundreds of packs of illicit cigarettes hidden there.

Officers from Northamptonshire Trading Standards visited Kubus General Stores, in Kettering Road, on a test purchasing operation.

The Kubus store. Photo from Google Maps

The Kubus store. Photo from Google Maps

During the operation, a trading standards officer saw the store assistant go to the back of the shop and return with a pack of about 200 cigarettes after being asked for "20 Mayfair'.

A 16-year-old girl sent in by the officers was then served cigarettes. Upon checking the contents of her carrier bag outside the officers noticed that, not only had she been served while under age, she had been sold counterfeit cigarettes.

Catherine Bennett, the lead officer for underage sales, and two other officers returned later to inspect the premises and found the source of the earlier purchases - a haul of illicit cigarettes and tobacco ingeniously stashed away.

She said: "The small back area of the store was searched.

The position of the secret door in the back yard

The position of the secret door in the back yard

"One officer went outside to the tiny backyard area. He came back in and said he had found the hide for the cigarettes and showed me a little door behind the outside light, above the back door."

The officers emptied all of the cigarettes from the hiding place and tallied up 559 packets of cigarettes and 50 pouches of tobacco. They were later confirmed to be counterfeit or non duty-paid.

Counterfeit cigarettes are illegally made without the permission of the trademark owner.

Non duty-paid cigarettes are those typically made for European markets that are smuggled into the UK.

Trading standards have so far failed to catch up with the shop's licence holder despite numerous attempts.

His licence is now set to be reviewed by councillors at the Guildhall on Monday, January 21.

Far from trading standards depriving people of cheap produce, Mrs Bennett said that selling illicit cigarettes have much wider repercussions.

She said: "Illegal tobacco is sold at a price significantly lower than that of legal tobacco and deprives the UK of vital revenue, which could be used to fund essential public services.

"The illegal tobacco trade damages legitimate businesses, undermines public health and facilitates the supply of tobacco to young people."

The raid followed four previous complaints of illicit cigarette sales at Kubus.