Harrow booze raid

HMRC seized illicit alcohol and tobacco worth nearly £50,000 in unpaid duty from off-licences and convenience stores in Harrow and Ealing this week.

Working with Ealing Police Licensing Unit and Harrow Borough Council, HMRC seized thousands of litres of alcohol and cigarettes from across the boroughs on 11 and 12 March.

188kg of hand rolling tobacco, 34,000 cigarettes and 1,845 litres of alcohol were seized from stores in Alperton, Ealing worth £43,000 in unpaid duty. In a series of raids in Harrow, authorities seized 16kg of rolling tobacco, 7,000 cigarettes and 100 litres of illicit alcohol worth £6,000 in unpaid duty from premises in Wembley and Greenford.

No arrests have been made and HMRC has appealed for local people and businesses with information on illegally imported goods, tax evasion and fraud to call 0800 58 5000.

“This illegal trade has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers,” said HMRC spokeswoman Jennie Kendall. “It’s robbing the UK economy of vital funding and those selling these goods do not promote they are buying them from criminals - the profits of which are funding organised crime to the detriment of all our communities.”

Last week, the Federation of Wholesaler Distributors urged retailers to ensure they are buying from legitimate wholesalers, after a spate of recent HMRC raids on independents had yielded thousands of litres of illicit alcohol in London and Burton on Trent.

“We would prefer to see HMRC shutting down the operators who are selling non-duty paid stock rather than targeting retailers,” said CEO James Bielby. “However, ignorance is no defence for engaging in criminal activity.”