Vodka bootlegging gang jailed

Six members of a gang which ran an operation making around 1.3 million litres of fake vodka have been jailed for a total of more than 56 years.

The gang used hi-tech equipment to turn out 24 bottles of vodka a minute at a warehouse in Hackney, east London. HM Revenue & Customs said evaded duty and VAT totalled £16 million.

The bootleggers also produced 9.5 tonnes of counterfeit rolling tobacco with a duty value of £800,000.

All six men were charged with conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.

The criminals ran a 24-hour operation at the warehouse using Polish workers brought to the UK solely for the purpose.

HMRC investigators worked with law enforcement agencies in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Poland and Cyprus to bring the gang to justice.

The gang used ethanol from a vodka factory in eastern Europe to make the fake vodka and the tobacco was stored in the Netherlands prior to coming to the UK.

Simon Grunwell, assistant director of HMRC criminal investigation, said: “HMRC is committed to protecting the public purse from attack by organised crime gangs trying to steal vast amounts of money.

“Where we find fraud we will act without delay to bring those responsible to justice.”

More than 70,000 litres of wine and beer have been seized by HMRC officers in Barnsley. The haul included popular brands such as Tennent’s, Carlsberg, Holsten Pils and Budweiser and had an estimated duty-evasion value of £79,000.