'I'll sell what I want': What Wakefield off licence manager told police before illicit cigarettes raid

An off-licence manager told police he could "sell whatever I want", months before thousands of illicit cigarettes were found at the premises.

Kamal Qadri owned Tyskie, on Kirkgate in Wakefield, which police have said is favoured by "beggars and street drinkers".

Qadri ran Tyskie, on Kirkgate in Wakefield.

Qadri ran Tyskie, on Kirkgate in Wakefield.

A licensing hearing on Friday was told how Qadri was initially reluctant to co-operate with police on a voluntary can-marking initiative, designed to crack down on street drinking and sales of cheap super-strength booze in the area.

He later agreed to take part, at the beginning of 2019, but police then found he'd drafted in a batch of ciders to replace the lager cans which had been carefully marked by officers.

Tyskie has now lost its licence to sell alcohol after around 8,000 illicit cigarettes were discovered at the store in a raid on September 21.

Police barrister Olivia Checa-Dover told the hearing: "The chronology to this is very troubling.

"Switching the lager cans for cider was against the whole spirit of what was trying to be achieved.

"When challenged about this, Mr Qadri's resonse was, "I'll sell whatever I want".

"And what we see from the chronology is that that's true, until someone stops them."

The hearing was told that Qadri had tried to sell the store to an employee, Asso Abbas Ali, at the end of March.

Although a deposit changed hands, police had objected to Ali becoming the licence holder and so that application was withdrawn.

Despite claiming it was no longer his business, Qadri continued to work at the store.

He did not attend the hearing, leaving his solicitor Victoria Cartmell to make representations on his behalf.

She said: "During that period (between March and September), Mr Ali started selling illicit cigarettes.

"Mr Qadri admitted he sold the cigarettes as well, but at the time his view was, "It's not my business, it's Mr Ali's responsibility".

"He admits that was a mistake. At the time he was fed up with the police's attitude, and with the problems he was having transferring the licence."

Ms Cartmell told the hearing that Qadri had not attended because he felt Ali was reponsible for the issues.

She asked the licensing panel to suspend the alcohol licence for a short period of time to allow Qadri to take back ownership of the business and "get his house in order".

But committee chair, Councillor Richard Taylor, said: "I'm quite amazed that for something as serious as this, Mr Qadri has failed to show up and put his arguments forward.

"It seems to me the police have been quite lax with him actually, at the start, and he's been given every chance to sort himself and his business out, as well as the issues between himself and Mr Ali.

"I find all of that a bit wishy-washy."

It was also said that Tyskie's electricity supply had been meddled with to bypass the store's meter in a "dangerous" way which led to a serious fire risk.

The hearing was told that Qadri "strongly denied" any involvement in abstracting electricity, and that Ali had admitted his involvement in police interviews after the September raid.

A police investigation into that matter remains ongoing.

After deliberations, the panel decided to revoke the licence.

Local Democracy Reporting Service