A shopkeeper found to have 97,000 packets of illegal cigarettes in a shipping container has been denied an alcohol licence for his business.
Despite arguing to councillors that his estranged brother was responsible for the illicit activity Shabir Ali, who runs a store in Huddersfield, was told his application was refused.
Mr Shabir was arrested for excise offences following a raid on his premises, Jimmy’s – now known as The Shop – in Ravensknowle Road, Moldgreen, in 2015.
Police, customs officers and licensing staff discovered seven packs of non-duty paid President cigarettes in his shop. A further search of a nearby lock-up yard revealed a large shipping container.
Inside were 97,730 packs of mixed brand cigarettes, which appeared to be a mixture of genuine smuggled, cheap whites - manufactured specifically for the illicit market - and counterfeit cigarettes.
The duty loss to the exchequer was £37,000.
As a result Mr Ali’s alcohol licence was revoked.
Covering Kirklees Division for West Yorkshire Police, licensing officer Richard Woodhead asked Kirklees Council’s three-member Licensing Panel to think about the consequences of granting a licence to a person who had the lost the right to sell alcohol “due to criminal activity taking place in a shop under his day-to-day control.”
He added: “The right to sell alcohol is not a given right, but if the luxury of a premise licence is granted it should be to a lawful and responsible person.
“The granting of a licence to Mr Ali will send a very strong, negative message to the people of Huddersfield. Any other shopkeeper or business that is tempted to start selling illegal products will know there is no longer any deterrent to their criminal activities.”
Representing Mr Ali, solicitor Marnat Ali said although his client had been arrested it was his brother, Nazir Ahmed, that had been responsible for the storage container and its contents.
The small number of illegal cigarettes found inside the shop had been for the use of the brothers’ elderly father, who set up the family business with his late wife in 1974. They were not being sold.
Marnat Ali said CCTV showed Nazir Ahmed entering the lock-up yard, not Shabir Ali. Ultimately Shabir Ali was offered a caution by the Crown Prosecution Service, which he accepted.
“Mr Ali accepted that caution and the allegation about the shipping container and the cigarettes was withdrawn.
“He should not have stored them in the first place and he accepts that. But as a consequence of that he lost his livelihood.”
Shabir Ali said he had lost business through having his alcohol licence revoked and that he was surviving on a low income. He said he “did not even know about” the 97,000 cigarettes in the shipping container and that he had received letters of support from neighbours.
He has since cut all ties with his brother, and added: “I washed my hands of him.”