Customs officials have been ordered to hand back the documents, invoices and computers they seized from six Eastenders cash & carry depots during dawn raids in December after a court ruled that search warrants should not have been granted in the first place.

Lawyers for Eastenders cash & carry plc director Alexander Windsor argued that the judge in Bristol Crown Court should not have issued them because "on the material before him there were no reasonable grounds for believing that an indictable offence had been committed".

Mr Justice Kenneth Parker, sitting in the High Court, found in favour of the applicants.

The ruling last week was the third victory in as many months for directors of Eastenders.

In January the Court of Appeal overturned the order that had appointed a management receiver to Eastenders' depots. In February a court sitting at the Old Bailey dismissed fresh applications for restraint orders against Windsor and former director Kulwant Singh Hare, and awarded costs against the CPS in favour of Eastenders.

"We are bound to decide that HHJ Horton could not properly have reached the conclusion that he did and should not have issued the search warrants, which this court will quash," said Mr Justice Kenneth Parker in the judgment.

Sanjay Panesar from Anami Law, which acted for Eastenders, said that it was now organising the return of all the material HMRC seized during the raids. "There's an injunction in place over the material so they can't touch it, use it, or do anything with it," said Panesar.

The High Court refused to hear a judicial review challenging the bail conditions of Kulwant Hare and his brother Avtar, who were arrested on 7 December and released on police bail without charge. However their lawyers are preparing to challenge the conditions at Barking Magistrates Court.

On Monday, Bromley Magistrates court quashed the bail conditions of Windsor, including the ­requirement to report to a police station twice a week, and have returned his ­passport.

HMRC had applied for the warrants as part of its investigation into an ­alleged £23m alcohol ­diversion fraud.

It was alleged that alcohol was shipped from the UK to bonded warehouses in continental Europe and then back to England with duplicate ­delivery documents. If the ­lorry was not examined in Dover, the shipment would be directed without payment of duty or VAT to one of the Eastenders C&C ­depots, HMRC claimed.

An HMRC spokeswoman said it was unable to ­comment.

Read more
Hare exits Eastenders companies (5 March 2011)
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