Walthamstow store has licence revoked after discovery of illegal cigarettes

An off-licence caught with more than one thousand packs of illegal cigarettes has had its licence revoked.

Coppermill Off-Licence, in Coppermill Lane, Walthamstow, appeared before Waltham Forest Council’s licensing committee on August 11, asking councillors for “mercy”.

The shop was raided by a council officer on January 30 after a tip-off that single cigarettes were being sold behind the counter.

Owner Mehmet Pektas told the committee he did not know the tobacco was illegal and believed the unknown man who sold it was a tobacco company representative offering a promotion.

Justifying the decision to revoke his licence today (August 18), the committee wrote that merely modifying his licence would not be enough to deter him from buying illegal tobacco in future.

They added: “The sub-committee was not convinced the (owner) had sufficiently demonstrated the necessary steps that would be taken to ensure that illegal and counterfeit tobacco would not be purchased by an unknown supplier in the future.

“The committee also recognised the serious public health risk of the potential sale of illegal and counterfeit tobacco, which may contain substances that may potentially cause increased harm unknowingly to its users.”

At the meeting, Mr Pektas’ lawyer told the committee: “He throws himself at the mercy of the committee, he now realises the error of his ways and has learned a very big lesson.

“He genuinely believed (the tobacco) to be legitimate and genuine. He was approached by a man offering him a promotion on the goods and, at the time, did not see anything wrong with it.

“He briefly inspected some of the packets and saw they had English warnings so he assumed they all did.

“At no point in time did he believe the packets were counterfeit, this is not a person that regularly purchases counterfeit goods.

“The ramifications of selling counterfeit cigarettes to his customers has weighed heavily on his mind.”

A total of 1,080 20-packs of cigarettes and 183 packets of rolling tobacco, none of which had duty tax paid, were seized from the shop.

The officer also discovered 451 packs of counterfeit Mayfair cigarettes and 10 packets of counterfeit Amber Leaf rolling tobacco.

Many of the packets had health warnings written in languages other than English.

When questioned by committee members, Mr Pektas clarified that he usually purchased tobacco from a wholesaler.

He said he did not ask for identification from the seller but was expecting an invoice for the purchase, which never arrived.


Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter