Thirty American-style candy stores on London’s Oxford Street are under investigation for allegedly failing to pay £7.9m in business rates.

Oxford Street

Oxford Street is now home to dozens of sweet shops that are under investigation

Westminster Council said the shops, which have proliferated in recent years, appear to be “far from regular and legitimate businesses”, the BBC reported.

The council has seized about £474,000 of counterfeit and illegal goods from the sweet and souvenir shops over the past six months, and a spokesperson said “very few” of the stores were “serving sufficient customers to be commercially viable”.

“Instead, we believe that these properties are used to avoid business rate bills and possibly commit other offences.”

The council has written to 28 Oxford Street property freeholders, calling on them to “consider the impact of US sweet shops on Oxford Street”.

Council leader Adam Hug said: “They are not only an eyesore, they are a threat to the status and value of what is supposed to be the nation’s premier shopping street.

“The problem is that owners of buildings are turning a blind eye to those who sublet them as it means they are not liable for business rates.

“This needs to stop and we will be stepping up pressure on landlords to make it clear they are responsible for Oxford Street being overrun with these kinds of stores.

“The people selling overpriced and often out-of-date sweets are cheating the UK taxpayer and very often swindling their customers into the bargain.”