Bestway Wholesale has pledged its support in tackling the illegal trade in alcohol by signing up to the government’s Alcohol Wholesale Registration Scheme.

The scheme, which comes into force on 1 April,will put the onus on retailers to prove they are purchasing alcohol from vetted wholesalers in a bid to stop the increasing levels of non-duty paid stock entering the country.

Martin Race, managing director for Bestway Wholesale, said: “The fraudulent trade in alcohol has been a major problem for many years. The wholesaler sector and our customers have suffered as white van man and other less scrupulous ‘wholesalers’ have flooded the market with bootleg booze. The AWRS will clamp down on this supply and also provide customers with the confidence that they are operating within the legal framework.”

After 1 April, any retailer who buys from a source which has not been approved by HMRC as a ‘fit and proper’ alcohol trader could face penalties, including fines, seizure of their stock, and the loss of their licence.

HMRC is completing its assessments of wholesalers and will have issued Unique Registration Numbers to all those who are approved by April 1. Retailers can buy from wholesalers without a URN until the end of March. After that date, any alcohol wholesaler without a URN will be trading illegally and retailers will face penalties if they buy from them.

Federation of Wholesale Distributors chief executive James Bielby said its members had been inspected and assessed by HMRC and issued with Unique Registration Numbers.