A Bolton off-licence is set face a hearing that could force it to close after police say they found thousands of illegal cigarettes hidden inside.

Police with a dog along with council officials visited Balaton Mini-Market and Convenience Store on Halliwell Road, Halliwell on February 10 and say they found a man, who claimed not to be the owner, with a key fob.

According to the officers, the fob led to a back storeroom and into a toilet area with a “concealment” filled with 7,280 cigarettes and 550 grams of hand rolling tobacco, which the officers say were not intended for legal sale in the UK.

A council statement said: “The sophistication of this concealment highlights how lucrative this illegal activity is, the clear criminal intention of the operators of these premises and the organised nature of this illegal activity.”

It added: “The tobacco products seized were not in plain packaging and some had foreign writing on them.

“As such it would have been very apparent to someone in the business of selling tobacco that the products were not for legal sale in the UK.”

Officers say that they scanned some of the tobacco they found into the till but that it would not scan, while a packet of 20 Richmond cigarettes scanned at £5, which is about half the usual retail price.

The officers also say they found vaping products for sale near the till that did not comply with the law.

The Bolton News:

Bolton Council says a full hearing will take place soon

The visit took place after Bolton Council received intelligence from the community that illegal activity may have been going on in the shop.

The council is now inviting any interested parties to send evidence to the licensing panel in writing by June 15 after which they will arrange a date for a full hearing.

Once they have heard evidence from all sides, Councillors will then decide whether to take away the shop’s licence.

The shop owner did not want to comment at this stage but say that he may wish to do so after the hearing takes place if more evidence has presented itself by then.