Tobacco ‘hidden under floorboards’

A shopkeeper has had his licence suspended after trading standards sniffer dogs found illicit tobacco and illegally strong vapes under floorboards.

Tahsin Jasem was banned from selling booze for two weeks at International Store in Regent Street, Kingswood, following the discovery of e-cigarettes made in China and smuggled into the UK.

Councillors gave him a reprieve after deciding not to revoke his premises licence despite a request from trading standards backed by Avon & Somerset Police.

However, they removed the designated premises supervisor (DPS) Seyed Javad Alavifard, who should be responsible for the sale of alcohol at the premises, from the licence.

The constabulary’s licensing officer Wes Hussey said police believed he had no involvement in the day-to-day running of the shop and was merely a name on the licence form because he had never been there when officers visited, although Mr Jasem insisted the DPS was there two days a week.

Mr Hussey said police had received intelligence that alcohol was being sold to children, which Mr Jasem denied, and that the shopkeeper was not complying with conditions of the licence.

Mr Jasem told South Gloucestershire Council licensing sub-committee he left a friend to run the shop for six weeks while he visited his mum in Iraq.

But he said that during that time a van pulled up outside the store and sold the friend vapes that turned out to be illegal.

The friend told the hearing on Monday, August 7, that he had made an innocent mistake to buy them and had tried to contact Mr Jasem to check but could not reach him until the following day, and that the shop owner was angry when he told him.

The raid by council inspectors in May followed complaints from parents that illicit tobacco was being sold from the off-licence, including to children as young as 12, the panel heard.

It was the third time they had found illegal goods in the shop in two years, although the previous two were in 2021, the year before Mr Jasem took over the licence as sole director of Jyar Ltd, trading as International Store.

Officials found a small amount of tobacco and 518 illegal vapes, “some of which were hidden below floorboards in a locked storeroom”.

Mr Jasem’s friend said he had brought the illicit tobacco from his home in Birmingham for his personal use and was not trying to hide the merchandise from the authorities but that the shop had suffered break-ins so he concealed it under the floorboards in a locked storeroom.

Mr Jasem said he put his friend in charge of the store because he considered him more trustworthy than the DPS.

He said he accepted the shop had a history of poor management and that he intended to apply to become the DPS after the hearing.

Announcing the decision, Cllr Ron Hardie (Labour, Emersons Green) said a two-week suspension would allow Mr Jasem to “reflect and address the issues”, while the panel had “no option” but to remove the current DPS from the licence.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service