December 21, 2020 3.40 pm This story is over 41 months old

Evicted shop tenants break back in to sell illegal cigarettes

They’ve been banned for three months

By Local Democracy Reporter

A shop on Lincoln High Street has been ordered to close after previously evicted tenants broke back into the store to continue selling illegal cigarettes.

Vina Mini Market, situated at 110 High Street in Lincoln, had been reported by Lincolnshire Trading Standards earlier in 2020 for selling counterfeit cigarettes.

This prompted the landlord to order bailiffs to evict the shop owners, due to using the store for criminal activity.

Once the bailiffs had left, the recently evicted shop tenants returned to the store by breaking in and continued to trade illicit tobacco.

A number of raids and seizures of illegal cigarettes had already taken place at the store, but further raids on December 15 and 16 saw officers take a further 25,000 counterfeit cigarettes.

On Friday, December 18, a closure notice was issued on the shop at Lincoln Magistrates Court, which made it a criminal offence to enter the premises for three months.

The closure notice on the front door of Vina Mini Market. | Photo: The Lincolnite

The sale of illegal cigarettes is believed to be directly linked to organised crime in the area, investigated by police as part of Operation Vigilance.

This joint operation with the Lincolnshire Trading Standards aims to tackle child sexual and criminal exploitation in the county.

Criminal investigations involving Vina Mini Market are ongoing.

Andy Wright, principal trading standards officer involved in the case, said: “We notified the landlord of the criminal activity taking place at his premises and to his credit he took immediate action.

“Unfortunately that action was frustrated at every turn by the deliberate actions of his tenants.

“The landlord did everything reasonably expected of him in the circumstances.

“For those reasons we sought to assist his efforts by applying for a closure order, effectively closing down the business for three months.

“First and foremost we will always seek to work with premises landlords in order to stop illegal trading at premises they own.

“However, where their genuine attempts to resolve the situation fail, we will resort to all methods at our disposal to stop such criminal activity.

“110 High Street (Vina Mini Market) was a very small shop; it contained very little legal stock and its shelves were sparsely filled.

“It was not difficult to see that selling the food items present on the shelves was not a viable business. Instead the true business was the sale of illegal cigarettes.

Lincolnshire Trading Standards have also said that this isn’t the only shop in Lincolnshire partaking in illegal trading of cigarettes.

Premises in Lincoln, Boston, Grantham and Spalding are all being investigated by LTS as well as Vini Mini Market.