Banbury shop has licence suspended after fake cigarettes seized

A shop where fake and smuggled cigarettes were seized during a raid has had its licence to sell alcohol suspended for 12 weeks and the premises supervisor removed.

Oxfordshire County Council Trading Standards conducted a review of the premises licence of Banbury Express Food & Wine, 179 Warwick Road, Banbury at a special Cherwell District Council licensing sub-committee hearing on Tuesday.

It came after Trading Standards swooped on the shop in June, seizing nearly 3,000 illegal cigarettes following two earlier test purchases when Ukrainian Marlboro Gold cigarettes were sold for £6.50 a packet to undercover officers.

Calls for a review of the licence were backed by Public Health, Cherwell District Council Licensing and Thames Valley Police. Police Licensing expressed their own concerns at the hearing following an earlier failed underage test purchase of alcohol at the store.

In making their decision, the licensing sub-committee said they had “seriously considered” revoking the licence altogether but felt there was “a clear acceptance” by the Premises Licence Holder of the failures at the premises and a “desire now to rectify the position”.

Council bosses welcomed the decision and said the shop’s owner had admitted under caution to buying and selling illegal tobacco since the end of 2018.

Head of Trading Standards, Jody Kerman, said: “The premises licence was the subject of a review hearing following a seizure of counterfeit and non-duty paid tobacco products as well as earlier test purchases. It’s clear that the licence objective of “preventing crime and disorder” was breached over a lengthy period”.

The cigarettes seized in June’s raid were found behind the counter hidden in an empty box of Snicker’s chocolate bars and in the storeroom at the rear of the shop.

Jody Kerman said: “We are serious about taking action whenever we find anyone selling illegal tobacco. Its sale not only avoids taxation, which means less money for schools, the NHS and local communities, it also undermines legitimate businesses in Oxfordshire and puts money into the hands of criminals.”

Tobacco fraud is reported to cost the UK around £2 billion a year whilst treating smoking-related illnesses costs the NHS over £2 billion annually.

Retailers selling illegal tobacco could lose their alcohol licence, face unlimited fines and be jailed for up to 10 years. Shop staff involved in the physical sale of illegal tobacco can also face unlimited fines and imprisonment.

Anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco should contact 0300 999 6 999 or report it anonymously via the website www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk

A separate criminal investigation into the sale and possession of illegal tobacco at the store is ongoing.