'Illegal firearm' found by police at Pontefract off licence

Officers found the item, which is banned in the UK, after searching the premises.
Officers found the item, which is banned in the UK, after searching the premises.

Police found an "illegal firearm" during a search of a Pontefract store, which could now lose its licence to sell alcohol.

Officers came across a pepper spray on a shelf behind the counter of Zabka, on Horsefair in the town centre, as they combed the premises on a visit in March, council licensing papers have revealed.

Horsefair, in Pontefract.

Horsefair, in Pontefract.

The discovery of the spray, which is banned in the UK, was described by an enforcement officer as a "major concern".

The off-licence came to the attention of the authorities after it was suspected of selling illegal cigarettes.

After three test purchases were made at the shop by undercover police staff, they concluded that illicit tobacco was being sold, and two bags of cash notes that "could not be accounted" for were then found in a toilet compartment during the search.

Mr Minoi could now be stripped of his licence to run the store, at a hearing on June 12.

In papers released ahead of the hearing, PC Toby Warden said: "A search was carried out in the licensed premises where a hidden enclosure with an electric lock was found in the toilet.

"This was above the sink hidden behind a tiled wall.

"Police found two small black bags containing an amount in mixed notes.

"Only one pouch of Turners rolling tobacco was found during the search. One of the members of staff present produced this and put this on the counter.

"A more concerning discovery made during the premises search was a pepper spray canister with holder.

"This was on a shelf at rear of the serving counter; this is a prohibited article in the United Kingdom contrary to the....Firearms Act 1968."

PC Warden said that an undercover officer was able to buy alcohol from the shop during all three test purchases, despite Mr Minoi's licence being suspended because he had failed to pay his annual licensing fee.

He added that counterfeit tobacco had been found underneath the store's counter previously, in 2017.

Wakefield Council licensing officer Paul Dean said: "There is no question that illegal cigarettes and tobacco sales have continued (at Zabka), which has been proven with the three test purchases undertaken by the council and police.

"The continual illegal activities again demonstrate that Mr Minoi has continued show little to no regard to promote any of the licensing objectives, especially his considerable disregard to promote the prevention of crime and disorder objective."

Mr Dean added: "Lastly, I have major concerns around the fact that a section five class firearm was found under the counter in the licensed premises, which is illegal in this country."

Attempts were made to call Mr Minoi for comment, but he could not be reached.

Local Democracy Reporting Service