Licence stripped from shop where illegal cigs were sold

An Edge Lane shop sold thousands of illegal cigarettes in a display of “criminality,” a committee has been told.

Members of Liverpool Council’s licensing and gambling sub-committee said they had “no confidence” in Ranj Ahmed to run Edge Lane Convenience and Off Licence after thousands of illegal products were found at his premises in a two-year period.

In a lengthy hearing at Liverpool Town Hall, Mr Ahmed admitted breaching the conditions of his premises licence when selling counterfeit cigarettes.

As a result, he has been stripped of his certification by the local authority who said there had been “clear evidence” of wrongdoing.

The session heard how a visit was initially made by Liverpool Council’s trading standards team and police officers to the premises in February 2021, when more than 1,000 counterfeit and non-duty cigarettes were seized from under the counter of the premises worth thousands of pounds. A total of 35 pouches of 50g counterfeit tobacco were also found.

When police and the council’s licensing team went to the location for a second time in October 2023, a sole employee was on duty, who Mr Wainwright alleged was not permitted to work at the premises and when asked would not produce identification. Mr Ahmed said the individual in question had been asked to “mind the shop” while he gave a colleague a lift elsewhere.

This was disputed by Cllr Malcolm Kelly, who described it as an “easily and most commonly used excuse.”

Mr Wainwright said on that occasion, £550 worth of counterfeit cigarettes were seized, as well as 25 illicit vapes. He said evidence suggested the premises was a “poorly run shop” with evidence of criminality in selling the counterfeit goods, but in explanation as to why there had been two years between visits, Mr Wainwright conceded it had “fell off the radar.”

It was said the behaviour of the shop was impacting honest traders who were losing out as a result of counterfeit products being sold. When asked by councillors if a closure order should’ve been implemented in relation to the store, Mr Wainwright said it had not met the threshold for such a measure.

Questioned by the panel, Mr Ahmed conceded he bought the cigarettes from individuals who came into the shop and did so without checking their legitimacy. On one occasion, the licence holder said he bought cigarettes that had “come from the airport” and knew he shouldn’t have been selling them on.

A test purchase was carried out in December last year in which it was revealed counterfeit products had been sold from a staff member’s product. In June 2018, a condition was applied to the business preventing it from selling single cans of lager, beer or cider.

In revoking his licence, committee chair, Cllr Christine Banks, said the panel had “no confidence” in Mr Ahmed as there had been “clear evidence” of misconduct and an admittance of breaches of his licence.

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