Dewsbury shop loses its licence due to 'serious organised criminality'

Illegal cigarette sales have led to a Dewsbury shop losing its licence to sell alcohol.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 10:29 am
A street view of the Polski Sklep shop in Dewsbury, which has lost its licence to sell alcohol (image: West Yorkshire Trading Standards)

Revoking the licence at Polski Sklep, on Foundry Street in the town centre, was deemed necessary to send a message to shopkeepers that Kirklees Council will not tolerate such activity.

Almost 76,000 illicit cigarettes along with £10,000 in cash was found in March during a raid on the shop by police and trading standards staff using a sniffer dog.

They discovered an ingenious chute that allowed counterfeit tobacco to be sent from an upstairs room to a drawer behind the counter.

Some of the illegal cigarettes and tobacco worth £50,000 seized in a raid at Polski Sklep in Dewsbury (image: West Yorkshire Trading Standards)

Customers paid less than half price for the cigarettes, meaning the shop made three times the normal profit on each packet sold.

In a statement to the council’s licensing panel, Jason Bethell, of West Yorkshire Joint Services, said: “This is not minor crime. This is serious organised criminality.

“A lot of the products were counterfeit and totally unregulated. The ones that weren’t are smuggled from Russia across Europe by criminal gangs making vast amounts of money.

“The Government admit that the loss to the treasury in excise duty is £2.5bn.”

A photograph of the drainpipe 'shoot' that allowed illegal tobacco to be dropped into a secret drawer in the Polski Sklep shop on Foundry Street in Dewsbury. Image: West Yorkshire Trading Standards

The three-member panel said the case for revoking the shop’s alcohol licence was “damning” and “clear cut”.

West Yorkshire Trading Standards is continuing its investigation with a view to prosecuting licensee Rekar Jabar, who apparently lives in Stoke on Trent. However, he has not been traced and did not appear before the licensing panel.

Licensing officer Richard Woodhead urged the panel to consider revocation on the grounds of public safety and crime and disorder.

He added: “These illegal sales also hinder the sales of shopkeepers who do not break the law. They’re in a difficult place at the moment and they try to uphold the law by selling duty-paid cigarettes.”

Panel chair Coun Amanda Pinnock said the licence at Polski Sklep would be revoked.

She said: “This is an extreme case and we need to send out a very clear message to the wrongdoers.”