The investigation discovered numerous breaches of licensing laws, as well as illegal workers being employed in conditions described by a judge as akin to “modern slavery”.
When officers first visited the premises of Peckham Food and Wine Ltd on November 23, 2016, a broom cupboard kitted out with a filthy mattress and a small fan for ventilation was discovered to be housing two workers, who were paid well below minimum wage.
The officers also uncovered countless breaches of licensing conditions, among which was the sale of untraceable super strength lagers, sold so cheaply that they could only have been smuggled, thus evading duty.
The council revoked the premises license, held by Kiran Israr, on September 15, 2017. It also refused an application by Safeer Abbas Shah to transfer the licence into his name before the council could bring the case to review. Shah claimed that he was distanced from the illegal activities, but investigations showed he was very much linked to the business.
Despite claiming at appeal that he was his own “autonomous” individual and committed to addressing the concerns of the licensing committee, it emerged that Shah was the estranged husband of the premises licence holder, Kiran Israr, and related to the other directors of the operating company.
It also transpired that he’d been involved in running the company; he’d employed an illegal worker and been in charge when the council’s trading standards team failed the premises during a test purchase exercise in February 2018, by selling alcohol to a 17-year-old.
Southwark Council highlighted the risks to the integrity of licensing that can arise when irresponsible licence holders attempt to avoid taking responsibility for unethical and potentially dangerous actions by simply transferring their licence into another name, or selling the business.
The judge ordered Shah and Israr to pay costs of £11,075. Shah is to pay £6,075 and Israr £5,000.
The Home Office confirmed that illegal workers had been encountered at the premises and as a result, a £10,000 civil penalty was issued to Peckham Food and Wine Ltd.
Cllr Victoria Mills, Cabinet Member for finance, performance and Brexit, said: “The council’s robust stance against all those concerned with operating Peckham Food and Wine has resulted in a win for vulnerable workers, for the local community who couldn’t trust that goods in the store were legitimate, and for licensing enforcement itself.”