Retailers handling alcoholic drinks on which duty has not been paid face confiscation of the stock and a large fine, and may be forced to pay the missing duty themselves. The Barnsley haul, including cases of Tennent’s, Carlsberg and Budweiser, is said to total £79,000 in unpaid duty.
Speaking at the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD)’s Drinksummit, FWD chief executive James Bielby said illicit supply had reduced its members’ beer sales by 40%. “Alcohol fraud is continuing to grow, with the illicit trade continuing to undercut prices and having a severe impact on the economic viability of legitimate traders whose businesses are being threatened,” he added.
Russell Grant of Blakemore Wholesale revealed that the company’s sales of beer were down 33% since 2007 and said retailers buying from non-duty-paying wholesalers were the cause. “Our business has been decimated by the action of some wholesalers and the inaction of HMRC,” he said.
Bielby added that HMRC had pledged to make unannounced visits to suspected fraudsters to assure that duty is paid on goods held for sale. “We have argued that if HMRC becomes aware of prices which are simply not credible, they have a duty to immediately seize those goods and thereby disrupt the supply chain,” he said.
Last week a 12-year jail sentence was handed down to the owner of an illegal distillery which produced more than a million litres of counterfeit vodka, at a cost of £10m in lost duty revenue.