Independent charity Crimestoppers recently launched an appeal for information from members of the public in Manchester to help remove knock-off alcohol from the streets this Christmas, with illegal sales costing the UK around £1.2 billion per year.
The appeal, launched in conjunction the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), aimed to highlight the dangers of fake alcohol, whet her it be counterfeit or illicit, as well as the knock-on impact to local shops that lose revenue as a result of the cheaper, sometimes dangerous, alternatives. The month long campaign is now in its last week of running, and Crimestoppers are urging for information from members of the public who have information on those who are producing, supplying or selling fake alcohol.
Wholesalers that sell alcohol to other businesses have to register for HMRC’s Alcohol Wholesale Registration Scheme, with the scheme aiming to stop illegal alcohol, where duty has not been paid, entering the supply chain to retailers – the shops, pubs, restaurants and other outlets that sell to consumers. Retailers will have to buy from approved wholesalers from April 2017.
There are, however, members of the community who try to cheat the system by importing illicit alcohol, before selling it to members of the public, undercutting local businesses in the process.
While illicit alcohol can create financial implications for local shops, there is also the issue of counterfeit products in circulation, where alcohol is produced with chemicals that could be considered dangerous.
One incident in Manchester saw a local champagne and cocktail bar prosecuted for possession of counterfeit vodka in September this year. The company was fined £2,000, ordered to pay costs of £800 and £175 victim surcharge.
Chemicals sometimes used that are a risk to a consumer’s health can include bleach, methanol, computer screenwash, nail polish remover and anti-freeze, all of which have been found to be in counterfeit alcohol.
The side effects of bargain booze found with dangerous chemicals in them have seen innocent consumers blacking out, left bed bound for days, and even having blurred vision and temporary loss of sight.
Gary Murray, North West Regional Manager for Crimestoppers, said: “Illegal alcohol might not be seen as a serious problem to some, especially if it means they save a bit of money.
“But imagine if your local shop closed down due to loss of earnings because someone was undercutting them by selling illicit alcohol, or someone you know became ill because of cheap counterfeit booze that had harmful chemicals in it. It then becomes a problem for you.
“Crimestoppers takes information anonymously, and we’d appreciate your help in telling us who is supplying or producing illegal alcohol so we can clean our streets of this dodgy drink.”
If you have any information on illegal alcohol then please contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use our Anonymous Online Form at Crimestoppers-uk.org. For more information on the campaign visit https://crimestoppers-uk.org/knock-off-alcohol.