THE OWNER of a Horwich off-licence which closed down after raids by police and the council, has been convicted of selling illegally packaged cigarettes.

Earlier this year Ozgur Ak closed Winter Hey Wines in Winter Hey Lane, Horwich after Bolton Council said it would be reviewing his premises licence.

During the raids illegal tobacco products, a snap bag of cannabis and 13 bottles, suspected of being counterfeit vodka, were found.

At Bolton Magistrates’ Court 44-year-old Ak pleaded guilty to supplying 59 packets of cigarettes and 11 packets of Amber Leaf tobacco in illegally coloured packaging and 66 packets of cigarettes and 11 packets of tobacco which did not carry the legal health warning on March 27.

Winter Hey Wines Ltd admitted the same offences.

Hamza Soren, prosecuting on behalf of Bolton Council, said officers had found the tobacco products in a plastic bag behind the counter and in a bag on a hook at the back of the shop.

Mr Soren said: “The defendant said he did not own the tobacco. He said he’d employed a Polish girl three days previously and that she had bought the tobacco for herself and her boyfriend to smoke.”

When Ak’s personal possessions were found in one of the bags he accused the officers of mixing the items together.

Peter Leather, defending, said Ak, of Chiphill Road, Bolton, used to run take-away premises.

"Unfortunately, late last year he decided to see if he could set up an off-licence. With hindsight he now recognises that it was very foolish of him, with very limited experience in that trade, to have tried to set up this business," he said. "It backfired on him enormously — so much so that, as of last month, the business has closed."

He added that Ak had not understood the complexity of rules and regulations.

"Whatever his employees may or may not have been engaging in, he accepts ultimate responsibility," said Mr Leather.

"He apologises for his errors, for misunderstandings that he has made and the matters that bring him to court."

Magistrates fined the father-of-three a total of £500 as well as ordering him to pay £500 towards prosecution costs and a £30 victim surcharge.