I believe my anonymous caller when he says that he buys all his alcohol from reputable suppliers - either from Booker at Slough or Bestway, JJ Wines or Enterprise, all of which are in London's Southall.
But at the beginning of this year a customer complained to Trading Standards that her vodka "didn't taste right" (why she chose this route rather than taking the bottle back to the retailer is a mystery - it is not customary customer reaction).
TSOs took the two remaining bottles off his shelves and later returned with the bad news that
one of them was counterfeit and that he would be charged. They said he should have been able to spot the fake goods.
They also visited his two main C&C suppliers (Booker and Bestway), but found nothing untoward.
He says: "For the sake of three dodgy bottles, why would I risk my reputation, my licence, my livelihood? If I wanted to do counterfeit I would do more than three bottles. Or I would do cigarettes, which would be easy. Even when I go abroad on holidays, I never bring back duty-free. I don't smoke or drink and I don't do counterfeit. Trading Standards seems to think I bought them from the back of a van.
"Do you have any other readers who have faced the same thing?"
Not as far as I know - but some of you must know something. Have you been offered dodgy bottles and how easy/difficult are they to spot? Or have you faced similar charges?
According to the Association of Convenience Stores, counterfeit bottles are notoriously difficult to identify, whereas cigarettes are much easier and more commonly counterfeited. The licensing specialist at ACS, Shane Brennan, says spirits can be counterfeited in two ways - on the exterior in that the labels are fake, and in the interior in that the contents are fake whereas the bottle and label are pukka.
I am waiting to speak to a government official in Enforcement and Compliance Operations at Customs, but she is away for a week. Meanwhile, any feedback from retailers may help my caller who is up in court in a couple of weeks' time and faces possible fines of up to £60,000 and/or six months in prison.
I don't expect the outcome to be nearly so dire. Through his insurance he has access to a solicitor specialising in shops and he will be fighting what is a first 'offence'. In more than 20 years of retailing he has not had a single black mark against him thus far.

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