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Warning sent out over illegal alcohol

Businesses licensed to sell alcohol and tobacco have been written to by Waltham Forest Council in light of a number of recent cases where illicit alcohol and tobacco were found at various borough off licences.

In a letter from Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Councillor Clyde Loakes, businesses have been warned about the dangers of stocking illicit goods.

Cllr Loakes said, “We work closely with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to carry out a coordinated campaign of visits to premises that sell alcohol and tobacco in the borough.

“Where we identify businesses that are selling illicit alcohol or tobacco – whether it is fake booze that has been produced in counterfeit bottles and has been labelled as a genuine product, or is genuine branded alcohol that has been purchased without any tax or duty being paid – we will act.”

Over the last year a number of operations have been carried out that have led to the seizure of a total of 264 litres of spirits, 435 litres of wine, 39,000 cigarettes and seven kilograms of tobacco.

Following on from the seizures, premises licence reviews were held for five businesses, which so far have resulted in four licences being revoked and one being suspended for three months. In addition to having their licences to sell alcohol taken away, those businesses are also facing prosecution.

Government estimates put the cost of alcohol fraud at around £1billion a year in lost revenue. Even more concerning are the potential dangers posed to consumers through the sale of counterfeit alcohol that is often produced using chemicals that pose a serious risk to health and have been known to cause dizziness, nausea, blindness, and in extreme cases death.

“We are committed to stopping this criminal activity and will seize goods, revoke licences and bring prosecutions that can bring fines of up to £5,000 and prison terms of up to ten years.” said Cllr Loakes.

“If it looks too good to be true it probably is, so if you buy goods off the proverbial ‘white van man’, rather than from legitimate and reputable sources, you are opening yourselves up to a problem you will be held responsible for.”

To assist businesses, the Council’s Licensing Service has prepared guidance notes that were circulated with the letter sent from the Councillors.

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