Shop could lose licence after Trading Standards find illegal tobacco

Billa International Market, 28 Ford End Road, Bedford Screenshot Google Street View (C)2024 Image capture September 2020 Image: LDRS
Billa International Market, 28 Ford End Road, Bedford Screenshot Google Street View (C)2024 Image capture September 2020 Image: LDRS

A Bedford shop could lose its ability to sell alcohol after illegal tobacco was found on the site by Trading Standards and Bedfordshire Police.

This week (20 February) Bedford Borough Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee was asked to consider an application to review the premises licence for Billa International Market, 28 Ford End Road, Bedford.

Matt Tucker, interim licensing team leader, told the sub-committee that Bedfordshire Police had requested the review following a joint operation with Trading Standards in September 2023.

“The issue around the review relates to the possession of illegal tobacco,” he said. “Bedfordshire Police, as the applicant, is inviting you to revoke the premises licence.

“[However] you have a suite of options to choose; to modify the conditions of the licence, exclude a licensable activity from the scope of the licence, remove the DPS (the designated premises supervisor), to suspend the licence for a period not exceeding three months, or to revoke that licence,” he said.

Paul Brennan, team leader for the Trading Standards Service, said the visit to Billa on September 27, 2023 was part of Operation CECE, a national operation with HMRC to target the supply of illegal tobacco at the retail level.

“During the inspection, [our] tobacco detection dog indicated to the roof at the rear of the building in a toilet area,” he said. “There was a large concealment of illegal tobacco, which was seized.

“There was a street value of between seven and eight hundred pounds, but you’ve got to remember, this is just what was there on one day.

“I’ve analysed the tobacco and none of it complies with the current United Kingdom legislation for the labelling of tobacco products, therefore it’s smuggled or counterfeit,” he said.

Mr Brennan gave examples of other visits to the store, which in two cases resulted in either written or formal warnings over the sale of illicit tobacco.

“The shop does not supply or sell legitimate tobacco, this issue has been associated with this shop for a long time, even the previous incarnations of the shop,” he said.

“There is a mechanism through the Licensing Act which suggests that the presence of smuggled goods on premises is a breach of the licensing condition.

“And revocation should be seriously considered for that activity,” he said.

A representative from Billa International Market did not attend the meeting, however, company director Biser Sergeev Dzhevizov sent an email.

This was read out by Mr Tucker: “When I purchased the shop the premises licence was not transferred as I didn’t have a personal licence or want to sell alcohol.

“The premises are not in my name. I will not be selling alcohol and therefore do not need the licence. I do not feel that I need to attend the hearing on 20 February.”

The sub-committee said it would publish its decision on the council’s website within five working days.

Any shop wishing to sell alcohol is required to be licensed under the Licensing Act 2003. But the presence of smuggled goods on the premises is a breach of the licensing which can lead to the licence being revoked, a meeting heard.

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