Nearly £6,000 worth of illicit cigarettes found at Pontefract store

By David Spereall, Local Democracy Reporter

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Zabka, located on Horsefair in Pontefract, could lose its licence to sell alcohol.

Nearly £6,000 worth of illegal tobacco has been allegedly unearthed at an off-licence which police claim is involved in “serious and organised crime”.

Zabka, in Pontefract, sold a counterfeit packet of cigarettes to an undercover officer in November, according to documents published by Wakefield Council.

Police say the sale prompted the discovery of 1,200 illicit cigarettes in a back room of the store, which is located on Horse Fair in the town.

Officers estimated the street value of the tobacco to be around £5,800.

Zabka may now be stripped of its alcohol licence as a result of the findings, with its fate set to be decided at a public hearing next month.

In papers released ahead of the hearing, West Yorkshire Police said the shop had previously been caught selling counterfeit cigarettes in 2017 and again in 2019.

On the latter occasion, when police also reported finding an “illegal firearm” at the store, Zabka escaped serious punishhment when it agreed to enforce a series of new rules and transfer its licence to a new manager.

But in a written representation to the council, PC Jonathan Kaye wrote that the assurances given by the store at the last hearing, “were meaningless and that the new licensee is a front for the premises to continue its criminal activities.”

He added: “It is the firm belief of West Yorkshire Police that this premises is involved in serious and organised crime. They have continued with their criminal activities regardless of the findings of two Licensing sub-committee hearings and are continuing to make a mockery of the review process.”

PC Kaye said that when officers visited the premises on November 30, they found a man present in the rear of the shop. When his details were checked, “It was established that he had no right to work in the UK”.

The papers said that Zabka’s licence holder, Fazal Karem Kader, “denied any knowledge of the illicit cigarettes and denied that the male present in the shop was working there.”

Police said the alleged findings were now the subject of a criminal investigation.

Wakefield Council licensing enforcement officer Paul Dean said he supported the police’s request to strip the store of its alcohol licence.

In his written submission, Mr Dean said: “Mr Fazal Karem Kader is responsible not only for the requirement to operate lawfully under the licensing act, but also has to take full responsibility for the items sold and found in his shop which he has clear control of.

“There is no question that illegal cigarettes and tobacco sales have continued to be made available from this shop, even after promises made at the last hearing, and the failures to comply with the licensing law.”

A decision on what action, if any, should be taken against the store will be made by a panel of three councillors at the hearing on February 2.

Repeated attempts to contact the store for comment have not been successful.