News story

Christmas booze smugglers stopped at border

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Smugglers attempting to sell cheap booze in the lead up to Christmas have had their plans thwarted by officers from the UK Border Agency.

In the last week of November alone, over 300,000 litres of beer, cider, wine and spirits worth more than £1million, were seized at ports across the south of England.

The alcohol was detained because it is believed the traders involved were attempting to avoid paying excise duty and VAT.

Had the alcohol not been confiscated, it is likely it would have been sold on the black market, resulting in buyers also avoiding taxes.

And the UK Border Agency estimate that more than £900,000 in revenue would have been lost to HM Treasury.

Stealing from public purse

Carole Upshall, UK Border Agency regional director for ports across the south of England, said: ‘This level of alcohol seizures leads us to believe that criminals are trying to exploit the pressure on household finances by offering cheap booze in the lead up to Christmas.

‘It is perfectly legitimate to shop in Europe and bring back alcohol for yourself but anyone who smuggles alcohol is effectively stealing from the public purse and from law-abiding taxpayers.

‘The money from this kind of smuggling is often recycled into other forms of organised crime.’

Among finds made in the last week of November were:

  • nearly 14,000 litres of vodka at Dover
  • nearly 25,000 litres of beer at Dover
  • more than 80,000 litres of Italian wine at Tilbury

Meanwhile, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) criminal investigators are already carrying out enquiries after 21,500 litres of whisky were found in a lorry at Portsmouth Ferry Port on 25 November. The amount of revenue evaded in this case alone is estimated at £118,000. Investigations are ongoing.

Alcohol will become fertiliser

The detained alcohol will be turned into fertiliser, while the packaging will be recycled.

Anyone with information that may be helpful to the UK Border Agency, should phone the hotline on 0800 59 5000.

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