Distillers have shrugged off claims by Tesco that it had to mount top secret import operations because they are ripping off UK customers. Tesco made the accusations when it revealed it had sourced brands such as Teacher's, Bacardi and The Famous Grouse on the European grey market. The retailer said it had to organise meetings in "out of the way car parks late at night" and use "unmarked lorries". It added: "Tesco buyers even had to disguise themselves as British tourists swopping their usual pinstripe suits for jeans and brightly coloured shirts and leaving telltale briefcases behind." But Allied Domecq's brands director Richard Hayes said: "They are perfectly at liberty to purchase from whoever and whenever they like. We share the idea of giving people the best possible prices. We cannot control or fix prices. There are very different pricing and tax structures around Europe. "We don't lose in the grand scheme of things, but we spend a lot of time trying to find the right price position in consumers' eyes." Bacardi-Martini said:"Tesco has not raised this particular issue with us although we are in ongoing discussion with it and other leading retailers about trading opportunities." Paul Grimwood, md of Maxxium, distributor of Whyte and MacKay and The Famous Grouse, said Tesco was pointing the finger of blame in the wrong direction. "If a retailer is resolute in its stance of defending the consumer, it should turn its attention to the government. "Tax alone accounts for 66% of the price of each bottle of Scotch. That's almost £7 on a £10 bottle. Once you add in production costs, transportation and so on, the profit margin left to the distiller is very small. "We would urge retailers to work constructively with us to help end this discrimination against British produced goods." {{NEWS }}