According to trading standards and police, those running Mama Mia Convenience Store in Harehills Lane were “effectively sticking two fingers up” at authorities, as they continued to sell illicit alcohol and tobacco even after police raids at the back end of 2020.
It followed an application by West Yorkshire Trading Standards to revoke the shop’s licence to sell alcohol.
The meeting heard from a Trading Standards representative that, on June 24, 2020 – police looked inside and witnessed sale of illicit tobacco. They recovered 2,757 packets of cigarettes and 496 pouches of tobacco.
On November 23, 2020 – a trading standards officer did a test purchase and bought 20 counterfeit Richmond cigarettes for £5.
On November 27, bags of illegal tobacco were found hidden behind a panel, as well as in the roof and cellar of the building. 1,200 packets of cigarettes and more tobacco – trading standards also said £33,000 in cash was also recovered. They also claimed 970 litres of non duty paid vodka was found at the shop.
In total there were four seizures of illegal tobacco from the premises.
Both directors of the company, Ali Mohamad and Aram Mohammedie, appeared at Leeds Crown Court earlier this month, pleading guilty to numerous offences around trading false goods. Sentencing is set to take place on February 9, 2022.
The trading standards representative added: “The premises licence holder has failed to uphold the licensing objectives. The supply of illegal tobacco is taking place at the premises.
“Throughout this investigation, we gave the business every opportunity to get their house in order, we offer advice, but this business has been intransigent.”
The meeting was told the value of the 5,000 packets of siezed cigarettes was approximately £50,000, with an illicit value of around half that. The 800 packets of hand rolling tobacco were said to be worth between £5,000 and £15,000.
West Yorkshire Police licensing officer PC Andy Clifford said: “Harehills has significant issues around alcohol-related antisocial behaviour and crime, partly because of the concentration of off licences in the area.
“There is an issue around street drinkers hanging around and causing antisocial behaviour. We are trying to educate every off licence in Harehills about this.
“The shop are aware of these issues. Due to the fact they are able to sell alcohol cheaper because they are not paying duty, that is driving the price down in the Harehills.
“One of the local officers has witnessed Mama Mia selling to drunks, so they are contributing significantly to the issues.
“It doesn’t seem there is anything they are not willing to do. They don’t have any kind of regard to law or care about issues in the area, it’s like they are doing everything they can to stick two fingers up at us all. We are trying to support them.
“The alcohol and cigarettes were hidden – they clearly don’t care there are issues in the community, otherwise they would be working with us. They just don’t care.”
Representatives from the shop were not present in the meeting.
In the days following the hearing, Leeds City Council published the decision of the committee, and confirmed it had unanimously agreed to revoke the licence.
The decision notice stated: “The committee found that Ali Mohammed, the proposed DPS (designated premises supervisor), was clearly involved in offences connected to the presence and sale of illicit tobacco having entered guilty pleas to such offences and had shown a disregard for authority and warnings given in relation to offending behaviour.
“The Committee was of the view that he was not a suitable person to be the DPS as he had repeatedly committed offences linked to the premises of a nature that the guidance indicated must be taken seriously, namely the storage and sale of smuggled alcohol and tobacco.
“He had also employed or allowed the employment of a person in the UK unlawfully. To allow the variation and continue his appointment would undermine the crime prevention objective.”
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