A sniffer dog discovered a “James Bond style” secret compartment housing thousands of illegal cigarettes at a well known Huddersfield newsagent.
Police raids on shops in the town centre last summer have now resulted in two newsagents being stripped of their licences to sell alcohol.
Bizarrely they can still sell cigarettes.
A Kirklees Council licensing panel heard that a “sophisticated” method of hiding contraband was found at Kingsgate News on Cross Church Street.
A secret door to a hiding space behind a false wall had been fitted with an electronic micro-switch that could only be opened by sliding a CD into a slot to activate a magnetic lock.
The hidden compartment was uncovered during a West Yorkshire Police (WYP) and Trading Standards enforcement operation on July 22.
Inside they found 48,800 cigarettes – more than 2,000 packs – that were non-UK Duty paid.
Officers also discovered more than 400 packs of rolling tobacco and hundreds of foreign smoking accessories such as rolling papers.
WYP Licensing Officer, Richard Woodhead, told the council panel the stash would not have been found without the sniffer dog.
“This was a complex, almost James Bond style way of hiding illegal tobacco,” he said.
A WY Trading Standards official said staff in the shop had denied all knowledge of the hidden cigs.
The owner, Bafir Hussain, could not be traced and staff claimed they had no phone number for him.
The shop’s premises licence is in the name of a Mer Zada of Whitacre Close, Deighton.
Neither he nor Mr Hussain attended the licensing panel to defend themselves.
The three-strong council panel of Clr Carole Pattison, Clr Michael Watson and Clr Amanda Pinnock, opted to revoke the shop’s licence.
Meanwhile a second case of hidden cigarettes was uncovered on the same evening operation last July, at Wisla supermarket on John William Street.
The “tobacco detection dog” uncovered more than 16,280 non-duty paid cigarettes and 11 packs of rolling tobacco in hidden compartments at two places in the premises.
£12,000 in cash was found in the shop safe, which has been seized by police as potential proceeds of crime.
Business owner, Atar Mohammed Raza, had only been operating the store for a few weeks when the raid happened.
Mr Raza said the large amount of cash found was money generated by the shop which he used to pay suppliers and staff.
Through his solicitor, he claimed an employee, Bahman Mohammed Hoseini, had admitted to sneaking the illegal products into the store without his knowledge, a week before the raid.
Mr Hoseini arrived to give evidence, to apparently take the rap, but disappeared from the meeting after only a few minutes before he could be questioned.
Mr Raza’s solicitor, Ian Anderson, said his client knew nothing of the hidden goods, despite the premises having CCTV inside the store.
He said his client had successfully gained asylum in Britain after fleeing Iraq in 2003 and had worked in a chicken factory in Scunthorpe for more than ten years.
He worked his way up to supervisor allowing him to save enough money to fulfil his “dream” of running his own business and claimed he had paid £7,000 to take over the store earlier this year.
“He has no experience of running licensed premises,” said Mr Anderson.
Urging councillors to “stop short of ruining” his client’s new business, he added: “He paid most of his life savings for these premises.
“It’s absurd that he would put all that at jeopardy.
“There’s no evidence that he was attempting to sell counterfeit cigarettes.
“The alcohol and cigarettes behind the counter were all duty paid.”
Mr Anderson asked for a suspension of Mr Raza’s licence but councillors opted to use their powers to fully revoke his licence.
Mr Woodhead said WYP were pleased the raids had resulted in two illegal operations being shut down.
He added: “We want to send a message to everybody else that is considering trading in illegal non-duty paid products.
“HM Revenue and West Yorkshire Police will be carrying out more operations up to Christmas and will seek prosecution and a licence review for any we find.”
Decisions on criminal prosecutions for both shop owners are pending.