In what is being hailed as a landmark ruling, a Lincoln landlord who accepted rent payments from the sale of illegal cigarettes faces jail time.
Leonardo Viscomi, 61, of Malham Drive was prosecuted at Lincoln Crown Court for knowing that his shop European Foods was being used illegally.
Trading Standards found that the shop had been selling illegal tobacco and alcohol in 2014 and told the landlord on numerous occasions.
Now he has been ordered to pay £52,700 in the next three months and a further £8,500 for court costs in the next year.
If he doesn’t manage to find the money, he will be sent to prison for 15 months.
Lincoln Crown Court heard how Viscomi was given detailed information about what was happening at his shop over six years.
Andy Wright, principal Trading Standards officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “This is the first time we have used the legislation in this way, so I hope this sends out a strong message to other landlords who are operating in this way.
“We tried really hard, over a number of years, to give Viscomi detailed advice and information about what was happening in his building and the likely consequences if he continued to take rent payments.
“We tried prosecuting the sellers of the goods, but these were quickly replaced with another willing party, so we’ve tried a different tactic – which seems to be making a real difference at removing illegal and counterfeit cigarettes from our streets.
“I’m delighted to say in the last few weeks four premises in the county have evicted tenants who were selling illegal cigarettes. Two in Lincoln, one in Market Rasen and one in Bourne. We’ve targeted a further seven premises who have now received initial information and advice.”
Viscomi pleaded guilty in January to knowing criminal activity was happening at his premises. He was handed a suspended sentenced and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid community work.