The future of a Corby shop accused of hiding illegal cigarettes in an elaborate electronic device will be decided by a panel of councillors.
Police found thousands of cigarettes in a ceiling light that descended from the roof electronically when they raided the Euro Express.
Corby Council’s licensing panel meets on Tuesday to decide whether to rescind the licence of the owners of Euro Express at New Post Office Square who have been caught several times selling contraband tobacco.
Police have asked the panel to review the licence following the string of incidents over four years.
Corby Council Officers found 20 illegal packets of cigarettes and three packets of hand-rolling tobacco when they visited in July 2014. They passed their information to trading standards officers who visited a week later and were able to buy a packet of illegal cigarettes. When they returned a few days afterwards to complete their inspection, they found more illegal tobacco. They wrote to the owner, Farman Mustafah, to tell him of their concerns.
But a year later in June 2015, trading standards officers returned and were able to purchase an illegal packet of Marlboro Gold and a packet of NZ Gold slim cigarettes. A month after this, in July 2015, a warrant was executed at the shop and officers found 154 packets of illegal cigarettes and 11 pouches of tobacco hidden behind a roller shutter which was concealed behind a cupboard at the rear of the shop. Of these, 56 packets of cigarettes were also found to be counterfeit goods.
Mr Mustafah was written to and in December 2015, signed a formal undertaking not to trade illicit tobacco. But over the coming months, four more formal complaints were received about the shop selling illegal cigarettes. In September 2016 and February 2017, trading standards officers were again able to buy illegal cigarettes. In July 2016, representatives of a tobacco firm were also able to buy counterfeit cigarettes. Finally, in February of this year during a raid, a tobacco detection dog found a sophisticated secret compartment in the roof of the shop store-room where 2,111 packets of illegal cigarettes were discovered. Northamptonshire Police are seeking the removal of the shop’s licence. In a statement to the licensing authority, they say: “To modify the premises licence and/or remove the designated premises supervisor in Northamptonshire Police’s opinion would not curtail this criminal activity.
“It is also the opinion that a restriction of the licensing hours would also not address the criminality.”
The meeting takes place at 10am