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Three month closure for shop linked to illegal tobacco sales

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A shop which has been the subject of repeated complaints from the public and other shop keepers has been shut down by magistrates for three months.

Istanbul Store on Coatsworth Road has been the subject of numerous complaints from members of the public about the sale of illicit tobacco, and concern has also been growing about the degree of anti-social behaviour associated with the shop.

Last week our officers visited the premises and issued a closure notice, with only the council, the landlord and the emergency services allowed to enter. All of the locks were changed and copies of the notices were fixed to the front and rear of the property.

Istanbul Store legal order
The legal closure notice was attached to the shop's shutters
Today at Newcastle Magistrates' Court, Gateshead Council sought and was granted a closure order which will see the premises closed down for the next three months.

The closure notice has been issued under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, which gives the police and councils powers to issue closure notices if they are satisfied that premises' use has resulted in nuisance to the public or public disorder.

The sale of illicit tobacco from Instanbul Stores first came to light in 2017 after a quantity was seized from the shop. The lease holder Soran Karim subsequently pleaded guilty to possessing illegal tobacco.

In January this year, Istanbul Stores was visited as part of Operation Sentinel which involved Northumbria Police and officers from our Trading Standards, Environmental Health and Enforcement Teams. The raid resulted in the seizure of thousands of illicit cigarettes which had been hidden in a car belonging to the owner Dilshad Ahmad. In addition, a male was arrested for being in possession of a knife.

The following month, Trading Standards and Northumbria Police visited the premises again with a tobacco sniffing dog. A male ran from the shop, having come from the staff area, and although he was not caught, he was seen dumping a large bag of illicit tobacco which was recovered and seized.

The sniffer dog then indicated on a car parked in a nearby street which was accessed and again thousands of illicit cigarettes were seized.

Further complaints and intelligence were received and during a visit to the shop in March a holdall of illicit tobacco was discovered in the staff area of the shop, and a warrant was executed on a car parked in a nearby street which had been identified as being used by males in the shop. Thousands more illicit cigarettes were seized.

A survey carried out with local residents and retailers revealed that most thought the premises was a nuisance, and that littering in the immediate area had increased. Police crime figures showed an increase in crime of 46% within 100m of the shop over the last 12 months, and an increase in anti-social behaviour of 39%.

Anneliese Hutchinson, service director for Development, Transport and Public Protection, says:

"Instanbul Stores and its links with criminality has been a cause of concern to us for some time.

"We have received numerous complaints from the public and other shop keepers about their sale of illegal tobacco, and the increase in anti-social behaviour around these premises has been noticeable.

"The sale of illegal tobacco is not a victim-free crime. It is well known that the illegal tobacco trade is linked to organised crime, and that many of the people smuggling, distributing and selling it are involved in activities such as drug dealing, money laundering, and people trafficking.

"I'm pleased that the magistrates have shared our concerns about these premises and have agreed to the closure order."

Neighbourhood Inspector Michael Robson said: "We have a fantastic relationship with the local authority and work closely with them to help improve the lives of residents and businesses in the town.

"This particular shop had become a hub for anti-social behaviour and attracted large crowds of people who would abuse and intimidate other members of the public.

"The shop owner was regularly spoken to by police and the local authority in a bid to prevent visitors to their store causing trouble in the community. However, they failed to listen to that advice and we have put a lot of work into securing this closure order.

"This should send a strong message to businesses who refuse to co-operate with authorities when it comes to making the town a better place to live.

"If you help feed anti-social behaviour and disorder then we are not afraid to take these kind of measures."

The term 'illicit tobacco' is used to describe illegal tobacco products which include brands that have no legal market in the UK, genuine UK brands that have been smuggled into the country and sold without duty being paid, and counterfeit tobacco that has been illegally manufactured and made to look like recognised brands by using stolen trademarks.

As well as the obvious health risks, illegal tobacco also has a high propensity to start fires as products often don't conform to RIP (reduced ignition propensity) requirements. This means they continue to burn if left unattended, unlike legal cigarettes which will go out if not actively smoked, and are therefore much more likely to start a fire if accidentally dropped onto mattresses, upholstery or other combustible material.

Street view Google
05 April 2019

A shop which has been the subject of repeated complaints from the public and other shop keepers has been shut down by magistrates for three months.

Istanbul Store on Coatsworth Road has been the subject of numerous complaints from members of the public about the sale of illicit tobacco, and concern has also been growing about the degree of anti-social behaviour associated with the shop.

Last week our officers visited the premises and issued a closure notice, with only the council, the landlord and the emergency services allowed to enter. All of the locks were changed and copies of the notices were fixed to the front and rear of the property.

Istanbul Store legal order
The legal closure notice was attached to the shop's shutters
Today at Newcastle Magistrates' Court, Gateshead Council sought and was granted a closure order which will see the premises closed down for the next three months.

The closure notice has been issued under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, which gives the police and councils powers to issue closure notices if they are satisfied that premises' use has resulted in nuisance to the public or public disorder.

The sale of illicit tobacco from Instanbul Stores first came to light in 2017 after a quantity was seized from the shop. The lease holder Soran Karim subsequently pleaded guilty to possessing illegal tobacco.

In January this year, Istanbul Stores was visited as part of Operation Sentinel which involved Northumbria Police and officers from our Trading Standards, Environmental Health and Enforcement Teams. The raid resulted in the seizure of thousands of illicit cigarettes which had been hidden in a car belonging to the owner Dilshad Ahmad. In addition, a male was arrested for being in possession of a knife.

The following month, Trading Standards and Northumbria Police visited the premises again with a tobacco sniffing dog. A male ran from the shop, having come from the staff area, and although he was not caught, he was seen dumping a large bag of illicit tobacco which was recovered and seized.

The sniffer dog then indicated on a car parked in a nearby street which was accessed and again thousands of illicit cigarettes were seized.

Further complaints and intelligence were received and during a visit to the shop in March a holdall of illicit tobacco was discovered in the staff area of the shop, and a warrant was executed on a car parked in a nearby street which had been identified as being used by males in the shop. Thousands more illicit cigarettes were seized.

A survey carried out with local residents and retailers revealed that most thought the premises was a nuisance, and that littering in the immediate area had increased. Police crime figures showed an increase in crime of 46% within 100m of the shop over the last 12 months, and an increase in anti-social behaviour of 39%.

Anneliese Hutchinson, service director for Development, Transport and Public Protection, says:

"Instanbul Stores and its links with criminality has been a cause of concern to us for some time.

"We have received numerous complaints from the public and other shop keepers about their sale of illegal tobacco, and the increase in anti-social behaviour around these premises has been noticeable.

"The sale of illegal tobacco is not a victim-free crime. It is well known that the illegal tobacco trade is linked to organised crime, and that many of the people smuggling, distributing and selling it are involved in activities such as drug dealing, money laundering, and people trafficking.

"I'm pleased that the magistrates have shared our concerns about these premises and have agreed to the closure order."

Neighbourhood Inspector Michael Robson said: "We have a fantastic relationship with the local authority and work closely with them to help improve the lives of residents and businesses in the town.

"This particular shop had become a hub for anti-social behaviour and attracted large crowds of people who would abuse and intimidate other members of the public.

"The shop owner was regularly spoken to by police and the local authority in a bid to prevent visitors to their store causing trouble in the community. However, they failed to listen to that advice and we have put a lot of work into securing this closure order.

"This should send a strong message to businesses who refuse to co-operate with authorities when it comes to making the town a better place to live.

"If you help feed anti-social behaviour and disorder then we are not afraid to take these kind of measures."

The term 'illicit tobacco' is used to describe illegal tobacco products which include brands that have no legal market in the UK, genuine UK brands that have been smuggled into the country and sold without duty being paid, and counterfeit tobacco that has been illegally manufactured and made to look like recognised brands by using stolen trademarks.

As well as the obvious health risks, illegal tobacco also has a high propensity to start fires as products often don't conform to RIP (reduced ignition propensity) requirements. This means they continue to burn if left unattended, unlike legal cigarettes which will go out if not actively smoked, and are therefore much more likely to start a fire if accidentally dropped onto mattresses, upholstery or other combustible material.

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