Customers defend 'honest' Wisbech shop owner who could lose alcohol licence after being accused of selling illicit tobacco
A popular Wisbech shop owner accused of selling illicit tobacco has seen staff and friends rally to defend him saying they are "shocked and outraged".
Kanapathipillai Kumaravel Thivakaran, known as Pepsi, could lose his alcohol licence after Haran's Best Price, in Norfolk Street, was found to be selling illicit tobacco on two separate occasions with an 18 month gap.
It is alleged that the store sold a packet of Russian non-duty paid cigarettes for £7 in January 2018 during a Trading Standards test purchase operation.
On a return visit in June this year, 15 x 50g pouches of hand rolling tobacco not intended for UK sale were also found in a "locked room area".
But shoppers, staff and friends of Mr Thivakaran say he is a "good and honest trader who keeps on the right side of the law".
Seven letters of support have been sent to Fenland District Council ahead of a licensing hearing next week.
Customer of five years, Craig Rea, said: "You might as well accuse Santa Claus of selling drugs. Of course, I'm being slightly facetious, but honestly, it is THAT ridiculous.
"You're barking up the wrong tree accusing Haran's. Pepsi would not be caught dead doing something as underhanded."
Haran's employee Rosa Baloseincuite said that in her three years of working there she had "never sold nor been told to sell any cigarettes or tobacco that was not UK duty paid".
"Mr Thivakaran is really strict and is against this kind of business," she added.
Even former Wisbech Chamber of Commerce boss Ray Johnson has lent his support for Mr Thivakaran, saying he is a "hardworking and honest individual always paying his dues".
However, he adds Mr Thivakaran may have "taken his eye off the ball" in recent months due to "challenging" family matters.
Licensing review documents state that Haran's could be putting the public at risk by also operating without a legal trade waste agreement.
Joanne Evans, private sector housing officer, writes: "If the owner does not pay attention to the laws around control of tobacco then the owner is acting illegally and is therefore in breach of the licensing objective to prevent crime and disorder.
"There is also a lack of cleanliness and out of date food and drink for sale.
"The shop floor and upstairs storage area was full of trade waste."
Mr Thivakaran will face a licence review at a committee hearing on Monday (September 2) at the Boathouse, Wisbech, at 11am. The public may attend.