Wirral Globe

ALMOST 500 litres of illicit alcohol has been seized during an operation to crackdown on sales of illegal alcohol in Wirral.

Police working with other agencies have carried out raids at off-licences across Wirral over the last three months.

Since the operation began in September, more than 630 bottles of illicit alcohol have been confiscated with a retail value of almost £6,400.

Nine illegal immigrants have been arrested with at least one man now facing certain deportation.

It is suspected that the majority of the seized alcohol has been "duty diverted" - goods intended for export or delivery to another excise warehouse diverted by fraudsters without UK duty being paid.

Chief Inspector Bob Gittins said: "It is very worrying to see such a large quantity of illicit alcohol being sold in off-licences across Wirral.

"As well as duty-diverted alcohol, there may be some counterfeit alcohol in the seizure.

"Counterfeit alcohol potentially contains high levels of methanol, which can have significant health effects that can prove fatal in high doses.

"There are also additional problems for communities and policing due to the cheap price of some of this alcohol, which can give rise to issues such as anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse.

"We want the message to be heard loud and clear by owners of off licences that employing illegal immigrants or selling illicit and potentially dangerous alcohol is not acceptable and we will be seeking to prosecute offenders."

Because of their relatively high duty rates, the highest risk products tend to be Scotch whisky or white spirits such as vodka and gin - the majority of the illicit alcohol seized on Wirral to date has been vodka.

Fraudsters tend to sell their illicit alcohol through licensed premises, usually at, or close to, normal duty paid prices.

John Malone, Wirral Trading Standards manager, said: "Investigations are ongoing into the above matters. We would strongly advise licensed premises not to buy alcohol or tobacco from anyone other than reputable suppliers through legitimate channels.

"If they are caught with counterfeit or non-duty paid products they can be prosecuted and also put their alcohol licence at risk.

Councillor Sue Taylor, chairman of Wirral licensing committee, said: "We are working closely with Merseyside Police and other agencies to protect the public from these illegal activities.

"We will continue to use our resources to ensure alcohol is only provided through legitimate sources and young people are protected from gaining illegal access."

Police worked with Wirral Trading Standards, Wirral Councilís licensing department, HMRC, and UK Border Agency to carry out the raids.

Anyone with any information about illicit booze should call Merseyside Police on 0151 709 6010, or Wirral Trading Standards on 0151 691 8020.