The person responsible for the day-to-day running of a Spalding shop claims she knew nothing about an “industrial-scale” cannabis farm in the basement.
Karolina Kiminiene told police she was as shocked as anybody about the discovery under Lithuanian food store Krautuvele in Pinchbeck Road.
However, at a premises licence review hearing at South Holland District Council on Monday (May 15), Sgt Kim Enderby, of Lincolnshire Police’s alcohol licensing team, said it was “inconceivable” that Mrs Kiminiene and her husband Vytautas Kiminius, who runs an adjoining beauty salon, did not know about the grow.
Further cultivating equipment which exactly matched that found in the shop was discovered in a lock-up at the back of the premises. Paperwork showed it had been bought by Mr Kiminius’s company, Kimeta.
Sgt Enderby said: “If it wasn’t them growing the cannabis, then they would have certainly known about it. You can’t come to any other conclusion than they must have been aware of what was happening, literally, beneath their feet.”
The farm of 74 mature plants was discovered after firefighters were called to a blaze which started within the growing equipment.
The couple were not present at this week’s hearing, but Mrs Kiminiene, who is the designated premises supervisor for Krautuvele under the surname Malakuskaite, told police that staff noticed smoke coming through the floor at about 1pm on November 30 last year.
They tried to tackle the blaze with about half a dozen fire extinguishers – said to be an “excessive” number for a shop of its size. When that had no effect, firefighters were called.
Sgt Enderby said despite the only two access points to the basement being through the shop, the “implausible” picture the couple painted was that a “band of criminals” was running the growing operation out of opening hours and without their knowledge.
The CCTV hard drive with footage from the previous three weeks was missing.
“The only people to benefit from that would be the criminals,” Sgt Enderby added.
Problems with the CCTV and the discovery of foreign branded medicines on sale were a repeat of similar circumstances a couple of years earlier. Sgt Enderby said it was “disappointing” that officers’ intervention then had not been heeded.
The premises licence holder for Krautuvele is Peterborough firm Lithuanian Food and Drinks Ltd. The hearing was told that director Rasa Surviliene’s name on it was no more than a “front”.
Miss Surviliene, who police accepted had no involvement with the illegal activity, had emailed the council eight minutes prior to the start of the hearing to indicate that she wanted to surrender the licence. However, the council’s legal advisor said correct procedure had not been followed and the hearing went ahead.
The panel of the committee of the licensing authority made the decision to revoke the licence, which will come into effect following a 21-day period of appeal.
A investigation by police into the criminal activity is ongoing.