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26 January 2011, 10:48 | Updated: 10 February 2011, 13:56
Over six thousand litres of alcohol were seized by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) during raids on shops in Portsmouth.
Over two days (Thursday 20 & Friday 21 January) a team of HMRC Inland Detection officers visited 20 shops in the city,
checking stock and invoicing procedures. Officers seized quantities of excise goods on which no UK duty had been paid at five
outlets. Goods were also detained from one domestic address.
At one retailer alone officers seized 630 litres (around 840 bottles) of wine, 1226 litres of spirits (approx 1,750 bottles), 576 litres of cider and 3232 litres of beer. A van being used to carry some of the contraband was also seized. It took officers a full day to load the illicit goods found in a cellar and storeroom onto two lorries. The revenue evaded at this one outlet is estimated at £17,000.
In total 6234 litres of alcohol, six kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, a small quantity of cigarettes and 14 kilos of Shisha tobacco (a molasses tobacco) were seized across the city. The total revenue evaded on all the alcohol and tobacco goods seized is approximately £22,000.
Stuart Crookshank, HM Revenue & Customs Assistant Director Specialist Investigations, said:
“We estimate that alcohol fraud robs the UK public purse of around £1 billion a year in lost revenue, with tobacco fraud
estimated at £2 billion. This money is needed to fund vital public services, not line the pockets of criminals. Our officers will pursue any business or individual involved in selling smuggled alcohol and tobacco on which UK duty has not been paid.
“This illegal trade has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers trying to compete with those operating on the black market. We ask local people and businesses to work closely with us in the fight against crime and ask anyone with information about illegally imported goods to contact the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 59 5000 or email email@example.com”
The spirits seized either had fake ‘UK duty paid’ stamps or no stamps at all - meaning they weren’t meant for the UK
market. It is believed the other alcohol and tobacco goods were smuggled, so the relevant duty had not been paid. Some goods are likely to be counterfeit.
No arrests were made at the time, but enquiries into the seizures are continuing. Portsmouth Trading Standards
officers, who worked closely with HMRC at one of the premises, are also reviewing an alcohol licence.
Commenting on the large quantity of alcohol found, Neil Fitzpatrick Portsmouth’s Principal Trading Standards officer said:
“This is a substantial seizure for Portsmouth and I am extremely pleased that the alcohol has been removed from public consumption. Counterfeit seizures do cause concern because contrary to the belief that alcohol simply gets watered down, these spirits can often contain high levels of dangerous chemicals, such as methanol. We will continue to work with our partners at HMRC and the police to detect and bring individuals to account.”
As part of the two-day operation HMRC Road Fuel Testing officers found a commercial vehicle running on red diesel. A van was seized and later restored at a cost of £500 to the owner.