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A shopkeeper accused of selling illegal tobacco insists products seized by police were a present for his wife.
The council’s trading standards team are calling for Done Food & Wine in Forest Road, Walthamstow, to lose its licence after police found “illegal” cigarettes on October 13 and November 21 last year.
At a licensing committee meeting on Monday March 8, owner Huseyin Buz denied through his lawyer that the cigarettes were illegal, adding they were for personal use and never sold to customers.
He said his brother Abbas Huseyin had previously confessed to selling some of the cigarettes in his absence and that he had immediately fired him from the business as a result.
An officer from the trading standards team insisted before the committee that Mr Buz had displayed “a blatant disregard for the law”.
They said: “People who buy and sell illegal tobacco line the pockets of criminal gangs. Such organised crime contributes to an underground economy worth billions of pounds.”
A statement from PC Darren Brand said officers visited the shop on October 13, after receiving an anonymous tip-off that it was selling cigarettes to underage children.
While no evidence of sale to minors was presented to the committee, police did seize 28 packets of Minsk Capital cigarettes and three boxes of other tobacco products.
PC Brand says Mr Buz “was adamant that he was not in the business of selling illegal tobacco” and bought the Minsk Capital for his wife, while his brother bought the other boxes for himself.
Police visited again on November 21 and seized 18 packets of Marlboro cigarettes, which Mr Buz’s lawyer insisted he had in fact “voluntarily shown” to the officer.
He again said the cigarettes were a gift for his wife, which he had been given by his Polish neighbour, whose contact information he was happy to supply.
PC Brand’s evidence states that he received the anonymous report of sales to minors shortly after sending Mr Buz an email about the “numerous complaints” about his shop.
His email to Mr Buz states: “Street drinkers and other undesirables (are) frequenting and loitering in the area after purchasing alcohol from your business.
“You will be receiving regular visits from myself and my colleagues over the coming weeks and months.
“I hope that soon we will be able to see a significant reduction in the amount of complaints received.”
Mr Buz submitted more than 200 pages of invoices to the committee, showing tobacco purchases for the shop from legitimate suppliers between October and December last year.
His lawyer told the committee: “We say there was no sale of smuggled goods at this premises, full stop. These cigarettes, although they are not labelled, are not smuggled.
“The amount of cigarettes seized is less than £200 worth but trading standards are seeking (to ruin) his livelihood. It is definitely not his intention to sell smuggled goods.”
He insisted that the cigarettes were purchased legitimately from a duty-free shop in Poland and would “not harm the individual who smokes them more than a (duty-paid) cigarette”.
The licensing committee will issue its decision about whether to revoke the licence by March 15.