A Walthamstow shop owner has asked councillors to show “mercy” and not revoke his licence after more than one thousand packs of illegal cigarettes were found at his shop.

Coppermill Off-Licence on Coppermill Lane was raided by a Waltham Forest Council officer on January 30 after a tip-off that single cigarettes were being sold behind the counter.

The licensing enforcement team recommended at a virtual meeting on August 11 that the licensing sub-committee vote to take away the owner’s licence.

Owner Mehmet Pektas told the committee he had not realised the tobacco was illegal and believed the unknown man he purchased them from was a tobacco company representative.

Opened packets of cigarettes were found behind the counter but Mr Pektas denied selling single cigarettes, claiming these packets were used by himself or other workers.

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His lawyer told the committee: “He throws himself at the mercy of the committee, he now realises the error of his ways and has learned a very big lesson.

“He genuinely believed (the tobacco) to be legitimate and genuine. He was approached by a man offering him a promotion on the goods and, at the time, did not see anything wrong with it.

“He briefly inspected some of the packets and saw they had English warnings so he assumed they all did.

“At no point in time did he believe the packets were counterfeit, this is not a person that regularly purchases counterfeit goods.

“The ramifications of selling counterfeit cigarettes to his customers has weighed heavily on his mind.”

She added that the shop is Mr Pektas’ livelihood and enables him to support his mother, who suffers from cancer.

How much was seized

A total of 1,080 20-packs of cigarettes and 183 packets of rolling tobacco, none of which had duty tax paid, were seized from the shop.

The officer also discovered 451 packs of counterfeit Mayfair cigarettes and 10 packets of counterfeit Amber Leaf rolling tobacco.

Many of the packets had health warnings written in languages other than English.

When questioned by committee members, Mr Pektas clarified that he usually purchased tobacco from a wholesaler.

He said he did not ask for identification from the seller but was expecting an invoice for the purchase, which never arrived.

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Trading standards enforcement officer Cordelia Cornelius told the committee: “It is difficult to believe he believed the visibly non-compliant packets of tobacco were compliant.

“It is as if desperation caused him not to be aware, causing him to put lives at risk physically and fund criminal activity.”

When first questioned by the officer in January, Mr Pektas used the profits from the sale of the tobacco to help him “meet his expenses and keep his business running”.

However, at the meeting, he said his business was not struggling.

The committee can choose to revoke or modify his licence or leave it the same. They will deliver a decision by Tuesday, August 18.

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