Peter Cripps says conscientious wholesalers and retailers are the real victims

“Business-threatening” was how one wholesaler recently described beer duty fraud.

He reported that sales of some major beer brands were down 90% in the last quarter of 2008 as retailers bought cheaper cases from traders who had avoided paying duty. Try telling him that selling duty-avoided beer is a ‘Robin Hood crime’ with no victims except the tax man.

Most wholesalers and retailers are conscientious about where they buy booze, and they are the real victims.

So they will welcome the alcohol strategy being drawn up by HMRC. It has pledged to treat duty-avoided beer as seriously as spirits fraud. But fraudsters always seem to find ways around whatever obstacles are put in their path.

HMRC seems to be taking the problem seriously and will soon take their plans to ministers for approval.

Let’s hope the Government recognises the seriousness of the situation and gives them the tools to do the job. Customs workers have made some serious inroads into the problem of spirits and tobacco fraud. It would help wholesalers and retailers if they did the same for beer.