Police uncover organised criminal group (OCG) operating from Northampton supermarket
A criminal gang has used a Northampton supermarket to sell illegal tobacco, police say... and then used the profits to set up a second supermarket in the town.
t follows a two-year investigation into activities at Europe Supermarket in Wellingborough Road, which PC Chris Stevens of Northamptonshire Police believes is "central to an Organised Crime Group (OCG) that imports and sells a substantial amount of non-duty paid and counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco."
PC Stevens further alleges - in evidence submitted to the Guildhall's licensing committee - that profits from the racket have been used to set up a second Europe Supermarket - in Abington Street - which he suspects has been laundering the ill-gotten cash.
A series of raids across the country linked to the illegal tobacco sales culminated in the Wellingborough Road premises being raided on August 22, where cash in carrier bags and a small safe were seized.
PC Stevens says: "Based on this information, the police believe that Europe Supermarket on Wellingborough Road is a base for organised crime and is heavily linked to the sale and storage of illicit tobacco."
Over the two-year period, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have conducted disruption work against the gang, the name of which is redacted in the public version of the licensing document. The police work, the document says, has led to "sizeable" cash and tobacco seizures around the UK and Northampton.
Among the largest seizures happened on August 14, 2018 when HMRC officers visited Europe Supermarket in Wellingborough Road for an inspection. A van connected to the premises was forced open and officers discovered almost 24,000 cigarettes and 2.4kg of tobacco amongst boxes that bore Europe Supermarket branding.
Eight days later, a second round of raids saw warrants executed at four places including a home address, the Wellingborough Road premises again, and a business unit linked to the gang where police had observed a member apparently arranging the lease. As a result of the latter raid, 2.4 million non-duty paid cigarettes were discovered.
PC Stevens said the force had no doubt that the licence holder, who also holds the licence for Aryan Coffee, a coffee shop on the corner of Lutterworth Road, should have all three licences revoked.
He says: "The nature and scale of the offences suspected of being committed in this case lead the police to the conclusion that, on the balance of probability, the criminal earnings of this OCG have been used to set up and run the business of Europe Supermarket on Abington Street.
"Further. there are reasonable grounds to believe that the accounts of these premises are being used to launder this money in such a way as to make it appear legitimate.
"Given these conclusions, the police are asking the licensing committee to revoke this premises licence."
The licence holder of Europe Supermarket is listed as Sarbaz Amin Abdullah. Licensing committee councillors will make a ruling on Wednesday, April 24.