The Federation of Wholesale Distributors is warning retailers this week to beware of illegal wholesale operations after a spate of raids on independent stores found alcohol products on which UK duty had not been paid.
Shop owners caught with illicit alcohol on their shelves will not only lose the stock, but could lose their licence too, says the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, as Police, Trading Standards and HMRC initiatives across the country reveal the extent that criminals have infiltrated the supply chain.
In Walthamstow, East London, officers seized 446 litres of wine, 264 litres of spirits and 54,020 cigarettes in a crackdown on 50 shops and off-licences. HMRC estimated the lost duty revenue to be £20,000 and five of the stores now face a review of their licence.
In Burton-upon-Trent, police and Trading Standards removed alcohol worth £4,670 from a store, and in Wiltshire a police stop-and–check operation on the M4 motorway found £5000-worth of duty avoided beers, wines and spirits in two vans.
A raid on two industrial units in Edmonton, North London netted 60,000 litres of smuggled vodka and beer which represented around £450,000 in lost revenue to the Treasury. In the North East, 25,000 litres of illicit wine, beer and spirits were found in a warehouse in Gateshead.
FWD Chief Executive James Bielby said: “Retailers who are offered very cheap deals on alcohol really must ask themselves if the prices are too good to be true. In the past few months there has been a significant increase in activity to target illegal alcohol, much of it aimed at the retailers themselves.
“Shop owners are risking their licence and their livelihood if they get involved with criminal activity, and it is their responsibility to ensure they buy from a legitimate source.”
Alcohol duty fraud costs the Government £1.2bn in lost revenue every year.
HMRC says it seized over 12m litres of duty-unpaid alcohol in 2012-13, three times as much as the previous year. In January 2014 the Government set up a Joint Industry Alcohol Anti-Fraud Taskforce to tackle the issue and make help retailers ensure they stay within the law.