Bootleg booze warning

COUNCIL chiefs have issued a bootleg booze warning ahead of a busy party season.

Hartlepool Council has teamed up with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to advise people to guard against counterfeit, watered down or non-duty alcohol.

In the run-up to the festive season the two organisations carried out a joint operation in the town when they visited 37 on and off licensed premises over a two-day period.

Officers were delighted to report that all outlets complied with the law after checks for counterfeit bottles of wine and spirits, tests on the alcoholic strength of spirits being sold in pubs and examination of stocks for anything that may have been smuggled into the country without duty and tax having been paid.

Councillor Ged Hall, Hartlepool Council’s cabinet member for Public Health Services, said: “We urge consumers not to buy counterfeit alcohol.

“It may be cheap, but people have got to ask if it is a price worth paying as it may put their health at risk.

“Trading in counterfeit and non-duty paid alcohol is a criminal activity and poses huge risks to public health due to the chemicals used as a substitution for the genuine alcohol.

“We are very happy with the results of the two-day joint operation and were pleased with the co-operation received from all traders during our visits.”

Paul Rooney, HMRC assistant director for Criminal Investigations, added: “An estimated £1bn in revenue is being drained from the public purse each year by alcohol fraud and the problem is one which we are determined to crack.

“This illicit trade has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers who have to compete against these counterfeit traders during the busy Christmas period.

“People are taking a huge risk buying smuggled alcohol because the contents are unregulated and can be dangerous.”

For further information about counterfeit alcohol, contact Hartlepool Council’s trading standards team on (01429) 523362 or Consumer Direct 08454 04 05 05.