A WARNING has been issued to shopkeepers who sell illegal cigarettes after a West Yorkshire shop lost its alcohol licence.

Revoking the licence at Polksi Sklep in Dewsbury town centre was deemed necessary to send a message to shopkeepers that such activity would not be tolerated.

Almost 76,000 illicit cigarettes along with £10,000 in cash was found in March during a raid on the shop on Foundry Street by police and trading standards staff using a sniffer dog.

They discovered an ingenious chute that allowed counterfeit tobacco to be sent from an upstairs room to a drawer behind the counter.

Customers paid less than half price for the cigarettes, meaning the shop made three times the normal profit on each packet sold.

In a statement to Kirklees Council’s Licensing Panel Jason Bethell of West Yorkshire Joint Services said: “This is not minor crime. This is serious organised criminality.

“A lot of the products were counterfeit and totally unregulated. The ones that weren’t are smuggled from Russia across Europe by criminal gangs making vast amounts of money."

“The government admit that the loss to the treasury in excise duty is £2.5bn.”

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The three-member panel said the case  for revoking the shop’s alcohol licence was “damning” and “clear cut”.

West Yorkshire Trading Standards is continuing its investigation with a view to prosecuting licensee Rekar Jabar, who apparently lives in Stoke on Trent.

However he has not been traced and did not appear before the licensing panel.

Licensing officer Richard Woodhead urged the panel to consider revocation on the grounds of public safety and crime and disorder.

He added: “These illegal sales also hinder the sales of shopkeepers who do not break the law. They’re in a difficult place at the moment and they try to uphold the law by selling duty-paid cigarettes.”

Panel chair Clr Amanda Pinnock said the licence at Polski Sklep would be revoked.

She said: “This is an extreme case and we need to send out a very clear message to the wrongdoers.”