A CONVENIENCE store has had its premises licence removed after selling smuggled tobacco linked to eastern European organised crime.

Following a hearing conducted by BCP Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee, the Bargain Convenience Store in Wimborne Road, Winton, will no longer be able to legally sell alcohol or tobacco products.

As reported, Dorset Police and its partners at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) previously identified that the premises had “fundamentally failed in the objective to prevent crime and disorder through facilitating the sale and storage of smuggled tobacco” following an intelligence-led operation.

On July 12 this year, officers from Dorset Police, Trading Standards and HMRC attended the shop and seized 2,800 cigarettes and 1kg of hand-rolling tobacco.

These products were confirmed by the owner, Mr Ali Zmnako, as being smuggled and had not been subject of UK duty.

Police then applied to the council to review the premises licence.

Bournemouth Echo: Bournemouth Town HallBournemouth Town Hall

At the hearing on September 29, a Dorset Police licensing officer said their concern was how an operator “with so many years of experience has engaged with organised crime of this nature” and recommended its licence be revoked.

Representing the Bargain store was licensing consultant David Ramsay, who said his client was aware he had “no excuse” and that the experience had been a “wake-up call”.

He also told the committee: “The thought of losing their livelihood has been extremely worrying, especially during these difficult days.

“My client is under no illusion as to the seriousness of the offence he committed and is also aware he has no excuse.

“You’d be within your rights to revoke this licence for such a serious offence, however this would result in the loss of income for his family and the loss of employment for other members of staff.

Bournemouth Echo: Bargain Convenience Store in Wimborne Road, WintonBargain Convenience Store in Wimborne Road, Winton (Image: Newsquest)

“My client will endeavour to maintain a high standard of operation in relation to the licensing objectives.”

The committee also heard how ‘eastern European’ men owed money to Mr Zmanko, who accepted the smuggled tobacco as a part payment of their debt – a move described by Mr Ramsay as a “serious error of judgement” in hindsight.

The value of the duty that had not been paid on the seized products was estimated at £1,634. Mr Zmnako confirmed at the hearing he had not yet paid the owed duty to HMRC.

Following the conclusion of the meeting, a BCP Council spokesperson said: “Having considered the application to review the premises licence for Bargain Convenience Store, 495 Wimborne Road, Bournemouth, last week the Sub Committee decided to revoke the premises licence on the grounds that the premises are not upholding the prevention of crime and disorder licensing objective.”

A Dorset Police spokesperson added: “Dorset Police welcomes this decision by the council. This is another example of how we work with our partners to respond to reports of illegal activity and take robust action against those involved.”