The sale of thousands of bottles of potentially toxic vodka has been prevented, following a raid on an illegal alcohol factory in Widnes, Cheshire.

The factory was raided as part of a joint operation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Cheshire Police and Trading Standards last week.

Officers found 130,000 litres of alcohol from two interconnected stills, plus equipment for bottling and packaging the drinks including suspected counterfeit labels and bottle tops for Number 1 Imperial Vodka Blue. 

The haul is thought to be worth £1.7m in unpaid duty.

Cheshire Police detective chief inspector Paul Beauchamp said: “We carried out a warrant at a business premises under the misuse of drugs act and discovered this illegal operation on our doorstep.

“We are pleased that we have helped to take this dangerous counterfeit vodka off the streets and are continuing to work with our colleagues in HMRC and Trading Standards.”

Sandra Smith, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said: “As well as potentially risking the lives of people drinking the fake alcohol, this factory had the capacity to rob taxpayers of millions of pounds in unpaid duty.

People buying the counterfeit vodka may have thought they were getting a bargain, but it has been distilled in unregulated conditions and may pose a serious health risk.”

Investigations are ongoing.