Seven Thanet stores shut down over illicit tobacco sales

Seven stores have been served closure orders

Thanet District Council has led a multi-agency operation leading to closure orders on seven commercial properties involved in the sale of cheap and illicit tobacco.

Yesterday (Thursday 27 May) at Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court, the council was granted a Premises Closure Order for the premises in Thanet. This is the first time so many closures have been granted for commercial premises in one hearing. They will close down for the next three months to prevent further criminal activities taking place.

The shops, which have been the subject of repeated complaints and intelligence, will be boarded up with copies of the notices fixed to their premises and have their locks changed. Breach of a Closure Order is a criminal offence and can result in penalties of either an unlimited fine or imprisonment for up to three months or both.

The closed premises are:

Northdown Road Groceries, 104 Northdown Road, Cliftonville

Al Madinah Foods, 106 Northdown Road, Cliftonville

International Mini Market, 200a Northdown Road, Cliftonville

Margate Shop Ltd, 253 Northdown Road, Cliftonville

King Street Retail, 30 King Street, Ramsgate,

International Store, 67 High Street, Ramsgate,

S & D Store, 7a High Street, St Lawrence, Ramsgate,

The action is part of an ongoing multi-agency operation of some four years by Thanet District Council, Kent County Council Trading Standards, Kent Police, Home Office Immigration Enforcement and HMRC to tackle Illicit tobacco sales, tax evasion and the use of illegal immigrant workers.

The premises have been visited a number of times since 2018 and illicit tobacco has been seized along with cash allied to this type of sales. In visits this year, some 66,860 cigarettes and 44.76 kg of hand rolling tobacco have been seized.

Cllr Helen Whitehead, Acting Leader of Thanet District Council, said: “We are committed to the fight against cheap and illicit tobacco and I’m pleased that the magistrates have shared our concerns about these premises and have agreed to the closure order.

“This should send a strong message to businesses not cooperating with authorities when it comes to making our district a better place to live. Illegal tobacco is not a victimless crime – it harms legitimate businesses and society in general due to tax not being paid, facilitates the supply of tobacco to underage people and supports organised criminal networks.

“I would like to thank all of the partners for their hard work on this operation as well as members of the public for reporting illegal sales. I encourage everyone to continue to do this and help reduce the harm caused by tobacco in our communities.”

District Commander for Thanet, Chief Inspector Rhiannan Pepper of Kent Police, said: “Officers from Thanet Community Policing Team have been investigating businesses across Thanet and have paid numerous visits to these shops to gather information and identify those suspected to be involved in criminal activity.

“Criminals will use shops as fronts to portray themselves as genuine businesses but very often their focus is on the illicit items they can sell from under the counter, rather than groceries and newspapers. They will even use food packaging to conceal tobacco on their shelves. The cash made from these sales will be used to fund organised criminal groups and can lead to further issues in the community and further afield.

“We will continue to work with our partner agencies to tackle this issue and urge anyone who suspects illegal activity in their area to report it, as your information could help future investigations.”

Kent County Council Principal Trading Standards Officer, Oliver Jewell added: “This is a great example of effective partnership working.

“We are sending out the message that illegal tobacco will not be tolerated and just because the public have previously found it accessible, they should not consider it an acceptable part of their community.

“Property landlords are urged to carefully consider potential tenants as they stand to lose money from lost rent throughout periods of closure and/or face bills for repairs to damage at their property if they do not make sufficient checks on their potential tenants.”

The Closure Orders are against the commercial premises part of the property and will not impact on those persons habitually living in accommodation above the shops.

Thanet District Council is able to apply for an extra three month extension following the initial Premises Closure Order.

If you would like to report a trader selling cheap and illicit tobacco please contact the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 6 999 or report it at www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk,  anonymously.

For anyone wanting help to give up smoking can find their local Stop Smoking Service at

https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree

28 Comments

  1. Cliftonville is a real hotbed. Have to laugh at Cllr Whitehead tortting out the same old bs- general due to tax not being paid, facilitates the supply of tobacco to underage people and supports organised criminal networks.

    1. Tax not being paid, we love collecting taxes on a product that harms & kills its users-genuine tobacco has thousands of toxic chemicals in it, but we love people selling that-even though the cost to the NHS is humongous.

    2. Facilitates the supply to underage people-ha, tobacco for decades promoted to children, it still would if it were allowed to advertise. It’s main market now is children in third world countries.

    3. Supports illegal criminal networks. But fine for it to support billionaires producing a product that kills around 8 million people every year.

    Smoking brings in nearly 10 billion a year in taxes, but costs considerably more-why is it still legal again? Action on Smoking and Health estimates that in England each year smoking costs society £12.6 billion in terms of output lost from early deaths, smoking breaks, sick days, provision of NHS treatment, provision of social care, household fires, and smoking litter.

    • Steve, you’re right in what you say about smoking, no argument there. But, even though smoking and the fact it is still legal etc. is an absolute crime against society, that doesn’t make what these shop owners have been doing OK. They were right to close the shops down and cease the criminal activity. It does fund other forms of crime, that is proven. It does deprive the public purse of revenue from tax, that is proven. And it is the case that the less reputable stores are happy to sell not just tobacco products to under-age people. With that in mind, surely these scummy shop owners being closed down is a positive, no?

      • 100%-what gets my goat though is these raids are usually led by the tobacco companies themselves to protect their profits & they & the police have the cheek to talk about how dangerous counterfeit fags are, when the originals have thousands of toxic substances. I don’t believe the majority of these people are funding terrorism or running sex trafficking rings etc as is usually implied by the police though, most of them are just greedy beggars pocketing the cash for themselves.

  2. I think it is odd that all the shops on the list in Margate are in just one road. As if they are being sold to a particular cliental.

    • Mustn’t mention who that clientele are.
      Cheap knock-off ciggies are available everywhere unfortunately, not just the Cliftonville clan,

    • Yes , any people who knew , white Heroin addicts – hard working Czechs – local hob goblin sub species – hard working polish fruit pickers –

  3. Well done TDC, the police and other agencies in at long last using legislation available to combat crime. These premises are prolific with the constant coming and going of customers looking for cheap baccy and fags. I do believe they are a front for organised crime. Even after being closed down the police were called back to one of those premises named above who were continuing to trade the illicit fags to eager customers from their car, which was taken away shortly after. No doubt they will continue on the street corner and from their homes as they have no respect for law and order.

  4. Shame they can’t be closed permanently. They shouldn’t be allowed to trade again, they have had so many chances.

  5. Although I don’t support using, or selling tobacco products, it’s good news that the legal trading stores, now have a better chance, with the closure orders in place.

  6. That King Street retail was the worst kept secret in Ramsgate. The whole town knew they sold cheap fags. Also all 3 of them stores you could look at and think how do they stay open. Just a cover up

  7. I am the landlord of one of these properties and am very pleased it has been shut down. I have not been able to workout who the tenant is as they pay cash into the bank quarterly. When I go to the shop they pretend they do not understand English. Also become aggressive.

    I am hoping I can use this evidence that they are committing illegal activities to cancel their lease on the premises. My worry is the tenant will just re open in 3 months time.

    • So you thought there was nothing fishy going on when they told you they wanted to pay cash for the rent? Did they also offer to pay a large sum up front as that would also be a red flag to any sane person.

  8. I feel for anyone who is poor who is also addicted to nicotine. The poor subsidise the state proportionally greater than the wealthy. Just slapping on higher taxes doesn’t help the fact that tobacco products are more addictive than heroin. The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party should understand the terrible dilemma of poverty and addiction and whilst it is a pity to some that this corrupt tax is being challenged by the unlawful sale of dodgy fags, stop punishing and maligning the poor for the wrongs of our unjust society.

    • You conveniently ignore the facts of the millions of people who have chosen to give up the habit and done so successfully and the huge efforts made by successive governments and the nhs to help them do so. How many of the poor smokers you talk of have a considerably worse financial position as a result of smoking? None of which has anything to do with the article which is all about criminal enterprises selling an illegal product and avoiding the taxes and responsibilities that come with running a business.
      As for the landlord who doesn’t know who his tenant is and has it would seem not done even the most basic of checks before granting the tenancy , i have little sympathy. That the rent payments are in cash over the counter is surely warning sign enough.
      I’ve been in several of the small convenience stores on Northdown Road, they generally have very little stock ( it’d beinteresting to see how much stock they claim is turned over) , have little or no interest in what their customers want or even engaging in any sort of social interaction with them, its very hard to see that they are genuinely the businesses they purport to be, far too many in cliftonville for them all to be sustainable from the local customer base.

  9. Well said Claire. You earn money you pay tax. Everything we buy has some form of tax added to it. I can fully understand why you would want to buy something cheaper it’s human nature. But it just goes to show how much tabacco gets into this country through the back door. Especially as these shops are so close to each other.

  10. I think the police need to check the flats above 104 and 106 Northdown Road as they always seems to be a chap standing in front of the door there all day long 😉

  11. Me – Common you knew what was going on as did 99% of Thanet – Cash paid lease?
    ”I am the landlord of one of these properties” & I know nothing?
    Covering your butt maybe? Just in case they delve deeper into their finances?

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