Doncaster shop loses licence after selling illegal tobacco to undercover operatives

The cigarettes seized by Trading Standards from the Lila Mini Market on Thorne Road. Picture: George Torr
The cigarettes seized by Trading Standards from the Lila Mini Market on Thorne Road. Picture: George Torr

A Doncaster shop has lost its licence to sell alcohol and tobacco after selling illegal cigarettes to an undercover operative. 

Lila Mini Market licence holder Sarkawt Karimi appeared before Doncaster Council’s licensing sub- committee after an undercover Trading Standards officers managed to buy illicit tobacco from the Thorne Road store last April.  

Nick Semper on behalf of the shop owner, said the cigarettes were sold by a friend of Karimi who had been given a quantity of tobacco as ‘payment for an airport run from Manchester Airport’ and was subsequently sacked. 

“He was truly an idiot for doing this,” Mr Semper said. 

But chair Coun Ken Keegan ruled the licence was to be revoked and added the committee had ‘no confidence’ the shop would continue to uphold the licensing objectives. 

The test purchase prompted a raid the following June and Trading Standards officers recovered a further 12 packets from the shop’s cellar. Karimi said he had no knowledge of this before it was found. 

The meeting heard alcohol and tobacco officer Greg Bristol ‘intercepted’ a man known to Karimi coming down the stairs of a private flat above the shop ‘with a JD Sports bag’ with illicit tobacco inside. 

The man in question was said to have ‘fled to Iran’ and enquiries were ongoing. 

But Mr Semper said there was no evidence this haul was linked to the shop. 

“If this was sophisticated criminal activity, they would know Trading Standards have no power to search a private residence,” he said.   

Councillors heard the CCTV was working in the shop but ‘couldn’t be accessed’ breaching the licensing conditions on public safety and the prevention of crime and disorder. 

Trading Standards also requested invoices for a large quanity of high strength lager found in the store which had a note on the products saying ‘return’. 

Tobacco and alcohol officer Karen O’Rourke said because no invoices could be provided, she believed the alcohol had been ‘smuggled’.

Addressing councillors on the committee, Ms O’Rourke said: “Mr Semper has admitted Mr Karimi had a lack of control.

“What Trading Standards would say is this lack of control appears to have been addressed but not until the situation became so serious that Mr Karimi realised what was on the line. 

"Throughout this period Mr Karimi has had the opportunity to address all of the issues for a long time. At the very least he could rectify those issues and he chose not to. 

"Shops have moved away from large stocks of illicit cigarettes on the premises – maybe they weren’t selling that much cigarettes maybe the money was being made by selling smuggled alcohol.”

Mr Semper, on behalf of Karimi before the ruling was announced said: “There has been some poor history in respect of the licensing objectives by Mr Karimi but he has sought professional and credible assistance in this regard for staff training and other measures.

“In response to Ms O’Rourke, we’re not in the business of maybes we could do with some evidence to show whether it was a large operation or a small one. 

“I feel you need a lot more certainty to apply for the top sanction.”  

Karimi has 21 days to appeal the decision.