In a landmark UK case, Lincolnshire Trading Standards has prosecuted a landlord who knew criminal activity was taking place in premises he was renting to a tenant – and could have six years’ worth of rent confiscated.
Leonardo Viscomi (61) of 89 Malham Drive, Lincoln, was prosecuted at Lincoln Crown Court for two offences of knowing or suspecting that his premises, European Foods (or Krakowiak) at 93 High Street, Lincoln, was being used for criminal activity, notably the sale of illicit tobacco and alcohol.
Presiding Judge Watson said it was clear Mr Viscomi knew of the criminal activity taking place at his premises because he had been specifically told of it by Trading Standards. He had received lots of correspondence, which detailed the activity and the pitfalls of continuing to accept rent payments.
Not only has Mr Viscomi been handed a suspended and sentence and been required to do 150 hours of unpaid work, he will also attend a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act, where some, or all, of the rent he received over the previous six years could be confiscated.
Andy Wright, principal trading standards officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “This is the first prosecution of its type in the country. For many years Trading Standards have been taking prosecutions against those running businesses, but with very limited success. As we’ve seen here, there’s always someone willing to take over the lease with little change in the type of goods sold, so nothing seems to ever change.
“Initially, it was never our intention to prosecute Mr Viscomi. He is a man of previous good character, and so we tried really hard, over a number of years, to give him detailed advice and information about what was happening in his building and the likely consequences if he continued to take rent payments. It is very unfortunate that Mr Viscomi chose not to take that advice, that decision may ultimately prove very expensive.
“Moving forward in Lincolnshire, the prosecution of the primary offender will continue. However, detailed information will also be sent to the owner of the building who receives rent from those tenants. I hope that by working together with landlords we can make a lasting difference.
“We are aware of premises across the county which have an extensive history of criminal activity involving illicit cigarettes and alcohol. Some of those landlords have already been contacted. It is our intention that all will be made aware of what is happening at their premises in the same way as we did with Mr Viscomi.”