An HMRC pilot scheme to catch retailers who sell counterfeit alcohol has produced positive results.

Raids on stores in Boston, Lincolnshire, led to a number of prosecutions while many stores had their alcohol or cigarette licences revoked or suspended.

Counterfeit vodka found in one of the stores contained high levels of the dangerous chemical isopropyl. The store owner said he had been sold it cheap by a doorstep salesman.

Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) chief executive James Bielby said retailers should only ever buy from the legitimate supply chain.

“It’s vital that retailers realise that they will not be able to plead ignorance if they are caught with counterfeit alcohol or products on which duty has not been paid,” he said. “If they had ‘means of knowledge’ - that is, if they should have realised the price was suspiciously low but purchased the products anyway, they will be liable confiscation of the goods, could face a fine, and could lose their licence.”