Rhyl hotelier upset over Tobacco Taskforce raid

Reporter:

Duncan Rieder

A cancer suffering hotelier in Rhyl is upset over an unsuccessful raid on his premises that turned up fewer than 20 legal cigarettes.

Anthony Whitear, owner of the Braga Hotel on the East Parade, saw his hotel searched by a force of 14 officers with a sniffer dog, spearheaded by an HRMC Tobacco Taskforce in a search for illegal tobacco.

Mr Whitear said: “It’s a waste of the taxpayers’ money and reflects badly on the image of Rhyl. It really exaggerates how bad the town really is.

“If you were on holiday and you saw what you thought might be the police on the doorstep of your hotel, you wouldn’t want to stay at that place.”

Mr Whitear, who turned 65 in September and is originally from London, has had the hotel - formerly known as the Marlborough - for 14 years.

The hotelier had already planned to retire from actively running the business on Wednesday, November 18 to better cope with radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments for cancer, which he was diagnosed with two years ago.

The raid was witnessed by a family from Birmingham due to arrive at the same time, 3.15pm on Wednesday October 25, who decided to relocate their stay to Llandudno.

The unsuccessful search only managed to turn up less than 20 Portuguese cigarettes, the last of a duty free purchase at Liverpool John Lennon airport by Mr Whitear’s partner’s sister, Carmellita Mourgino, on Friday October 13.

Mr Whitear added: “They told me it was a random search of my hotel, because they’d had a tip that one of the businesses on the street was selling tobacco. After they found nothing, I mentioned another hotel that might be doing it but they didn’t even bother to search it.

“I feel persecuted as it was more than excessive, three people could have done the job easily. I would have accepted one person to search, one to handle the sniffer dog and one for authority. Why is nobody focusing on the right sort of crime? They have this show of force, and they’re not even addressing real issues.”

However, the hotelier isn’t concerned that there will be last damage to his image or the hotel’s reputation.

“I’m thick skinned so I’ll be ok. But thank God the family who witnessed it are old friends and seemed really genuine when they said they understood and would still use the hotel next time they’re here.”

The search was limited to Mr Whitear’s three-bedroom living quarters and the bar, kitchen and living room areas.

North Wales Police were unable to comment on the initiative which is under the control of the HRMC, who refused to comment on any activity involving identifiable individuals or businesses. 

n A Samurai sword, cannabis cookies and cocaine were among items uncovered in a raid to disrupt illegal tobacco and alcohol trading in North Wales.

The operation conducted Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), with support from North Wales Police, UK Border Agency, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham Trading Standards, uncovered more than 440,000 cigarettes, 169 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and 2,700 litres of alcohol.

About 24 officers from the combined forces visited 59 retail premises and self storage units, from Tuesday October 24 to Thursday 26, as part of HMRC’s Tobacco Taskforce activity.

Email:

duncan.rieder@nwn.co.uk

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