Hatfield store has licence suspended after police find ‘large amount of smuggled tobacco’

PUBLISHED: 13:58 02 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:38 02 March 2018

Hatfield Food & Wine in St Albans Road East. Picture: Google Street View.

Hatfield Food & Wine in St Albans Road East. Picture: Google Street View.

Archant

The borough council has suspended a Hatfield shop’s alcohol licence after it was found to be selling illicit tobacco.

Hatfield Food & Wine in St Albans Road East has been banned from selling alcohol for three weeks – starting from Friday, March 9 – after a large amount of smuggled tobacco was found while under previous ownership.

Police had requested a review of the off-licence following a tip-off.

Licensing officer for Herts Constabulary, James Moatt, said: “Police officers conducted a search of the premises and found a large amount of smuggled tobacco hidden in compartments behind the service counter.

“As a result, a man was later convicted of customs and excise duty evasion offences.”

The borough council’s licensing sub-committee heard evidence given by the police that the premises had a reputation for selling cheap, untaxed tobacco, with no health warnings on the packaging.

During the investigation, the premises licence was transferred to another person, along with ownership of the property itself, and a council spokeswoman said it is not aware of the current owner being involved in any criminal activity.

She added that although ownership of the premises changed, because it was still being visited by those wishing to purchase the cheap tobacco, the sub-committee saw it necessary to suspend the license to help dispel its reputation for such sales.

Councillor Roger Trigg said: “We hope that this licence suspension sends out a clear message to anyone wanting to buy or sell illicit products that we will not tolerate such activity in Welwyn Hatfield.

“We would like to reiterate that it was the previous owner of the property who was found to be selling illicit tobacco, and we hope the new owner will continue to improve the shop’s reputation once the suspension comes to an end.”

The new owner, Vugar Aslanov, told the WHT: “We would like to acknowledge all of our loyal customers and confirm that we will be operating normal hours during the three-week suspension.

“We thank you for your cooperation and look forward to seeing you all again.”

Initially a three-month ban was imposed, but it was agreed that the shorter suspension was appropriate as there had been an improvement in how the shop was being run.

Police also confirmed the illicit tobacco was no longer being sold and those wishing to buy it had stopped visiting the shop.

The shorter period was subject to several conditions, including the owner and employees having no contact with the previous owner and all CCTV footage being stored for at least 30 days.

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