Holloway Road shop’s licence revoked after inspectors find thousands of illegal cigarettes

Illegal cigarettes found at Alands International. Photograph: Islington Trading Standards

Thousands of illegal cigarettes were discovered hidden in a shop till and a bread box in an off licence on Holloway Road.

The contraband was found by a trading standards investigator who visits businesses in Islington looking for illegal cigarettes or alcohol.

The 2,905 cigarettes and rolling tobacco were not in plain packaging and it is against the law to sell them in the UK.

The investigator found 800 cigarettes in the till at Alands International Market and 1,800 more in a basket underneath the counter.  Brands included Minsk Superslims and Compliment.

A woman serving in the shop when the inspector visited said she was a customer, helping out whilst the owner was away.

She appeared “to know her way around the shop and was aware of the prices”, according to a trading standards report.

The inspector also spotted another 145 cigarettes and 840g of hand-rolling tobacco in a bread bin.

The council’s trading standards manager Alonso Ercilla said:  “The tobacco products were evidently concealed in several places in the shop, indicating that this was clearly a premeditated offence.”

He told Islington’s licensing committee, reviewing the licence at trading standards’ request, that “it was hidden in a very sophisticated way”.

The licensee and premises supervisor said they did not know anything about the illegal cigarettes in the store when quizzed by trading standards.

Ercilla said this was “implausible” and there was an “almost surreal implication that someone informally trusted to look after the shop may have created and filled hiding places with illegal tobacco for their own benefit”.

He told the licensing review: “I believe there to to be a severe lack of effective management at the premises.”

He said it was “reckless and negligent” to allow an “unknown person” to run the shop.

“This is not a sweet shop, but rather a business premises with a licence to sell alcohol,” he added.

It was “typical” in cases like this for companies to claim they did not know what was going on, he said.

The council’s licensing officer Terrie Lane told councillors: “There’s been no explanation as to how the illegal goods came to be on the premises.”

The designated premises supervisor Monica Titilina told the licensing committee: “I am not going to put two years of working hard for nothing in the bin for one basket of cigarettes, no.”

She explained she knew about the rules and that inspectors come and check up.

She said she explained the rules to staff and told them about asking for ID and what to do if they thought customers were drunk.

According to the council, Alands International Ltd is no longer trading and the business is now run by Mum Organic Limited where Titilina is the sole director.

The licence for the premises was revoked by Islington’s licensing committee.