A HEREFORD shop with a long history of repeatedly selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco has been forced to close for three months.

Hereford Magistrates’ Court granted the emergency closure today for Zabka in Eign Gate.

This is the first time in Herefordshire that an emergency closure notice has been used on premises that persistently sell illegal tobacco, despite previous court action and convictions.

The court heard that the shop first opened in January 2014 and the first raid was carried out in May of that year when a large amount of illegal tobacco and cigarettes was discovered.

Since the shop opened there have been 13 test purchases of illegal cigarettes at the shop, six raids where illegal tobacco and cigarettes were seized and one intelligence report of illegal cigarettes being sold at the shop.

The legal representative for the police said: “It is quite clear it is not working.”

The court heard the cigarettes and tobacco were either smuggled into the UK, so were not subject to UK taxation or health laws, or were contraband.

The latest raid was carried out on October 3 in a joint operation by Herefordshire Council’s Trading Standards and Environmental Health service, West Mercia Police and Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service when 481 packets of illegal cigarettes and 15 pouches of illegal hand rolling tobacco were seized.

A closure notice was issued on Monday at the shop when illegal cigarettes were again found before magistrates today granted the three-month closure order.

Sergeant Duncan Reynolds said: “The closure powers we’ve been able to use in this case emphasise how serious these offences are, and we will continue to work with our partners to ensure that organised criminals are unable to continue operating in Herefordshire.”

A closure notice has also been issued on International Food in Commercial Road in Hereford. Today, leaseholder Tarik Dosky asked for an adjournment so he could consult a solicitor.

The court heard the shop also had a long history of selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco.

Magistrates agreed to grant an adjournment but said the shop must remain closed until the next hearing on October 15. The shop was first closed on Monday.

Marc Willimont, from Herefordshire Council, said: “The use of emergency closure powers proves that the council and our partner agencies are standing up to persistent offenders.”