Customs seizes illicit alcohol

HM Revenue & Customs officers in the West Midlands seized a massive stash of alcohol from an off-licence in Oldbury.

The haul included 582 bottles of vodka, 416 bottles of whisky, 5,746 cans of beer including Carling and Stella Artois, and 26 bottles of wine.

Customs officers believe some of the stock may be subject to duty evasion with a revenue loss of around £15,000.

The trader’s van was also seized, though no arrests have yet been made.

HMRC spokeswoman Jennie Kendall said: “We have active and effective teams operating across the West Midlands to deter and disrupt those dealing in illicit alcohol.

“We will seize the goods, along with any vehicles used to transport them, and individuals may face criminal prosecution.

“This illegal trade has a devastating effect on legitimate retailers having to compete with black market traders.”?In a separate case, an off-licence in the east end of London has had its licence removed after being found guilty o?f selling smuggled wine.

Some 153 bottles of wine were seized from Royal Duke Superstore in Commercial Road, Tower Hamlets, by police and trading standards in November last year.

Trading standards said owner Rashmi Patel had managed to evade £269 in duty.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors said even more needed to be done to tackle duty fraud. Chief executive James Bielby said HMRC’s response was “not as robust as we would like”.

He added: “HMRC should seize products being sold at suspect prices, punish those involved and stop the fraud occurring in the first place – by tracking goods both within the UK and those entering and leaving?.”