Smugglers fall foul of duty stamps on imported spirits

07 September, 2007

Scheme to stop untaxed but genuine spirits also stumps counterfeiters

Duty stamps ha ve


curbed the smuggling of

bootleg spirits into the UK,


industry figures

have told OLN.

Since last


all spirits that pass

through customs must display a

stamp. John Burke, marketing director at Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands, said such measures have "significantly reduced the problem of counterfeit spirits".

Sian Baxter, off-trade manager for Maxxium UK, agreed

the duty stamps scheme has been effective in tackling spirits fraud. "The introduction of duty stamps for spirits

has made a significant difference to the problem of counterfeit spirits," she said.


Revenue & Customs spokesman said

although duty stamps were introduced to "help tackle the diversion of genuine but untaxed spirits onto the UK market", they also present an "additional hurdle for those attempting to counterfeit spirits".

He added: "HMRC is able to establish the authenticity of duty stamps through a number of checks, and poor quality reproduction of the stamp has been the give-away in a number of recent counterfeit cases."

Vodka is the easiest spirit to produce illegally, according to Chris Mason, managing director of First Drinks Brands. "From a qualitative perspective it is extremely challenging to produce counterfeit dark or flavoured spirits which have age statements, unique packaging and trademark protected bottles. It appears there is more of a counterfeit opportunity in cheaper vodka products."

David Simmonds, owner of Derby-based off-licence Red Zebra, said retailers have a responsibility to themselves and their customers to buy from legitimate suppliers. "As long as you're not buying from a guy in a white van at a motorway service station you should be OK," he said.

How to recognise counterfeit spirits

Never buy alcohol from any unlicensed source or location - buy from reputable wholesalers and agents

If you're buying your product out of the back of a van, you are likely to be taking part in an illegal trade

If the packaging or liquid looks different

from usual, take it back directly to your wholesaler or distributor who will carry out an investigation. They can not only test the product, but can also trace its shipment and origin.

(Source: International Federation of Spirits Producers UK)

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