Customs officers have stepped up their efforts to disrupt alcohol duty fraud and have promised more "hard-hitting operations".

HMRC has come under fire from wholesalers who claim fraudsters are selling increasing amounts of duty-avoided beer and wine and that it is not doing enough to tackle the issue.

Decision makers at HMRC said alcohol fraud was now one of its top priorities, adding that in April it would finalise a new strategy to tackle the problem. So far this financial year the HMRC had seized seven million litres of alcohol, compared with 6.7 million litres in the previous financial year, said Peter Latham, HMRC project leader for the renewal of alcohol strategy.

Twelve regional teams set up in April had seized 1.3 million litres so far and Customs officers and police had been blitzing cities, raiding premises and taking a publicly tough stance on fraud, he added.

"There's a serious problem with alcohol fraud that damages the livelihoods of wholesalers and retailers," he said. "We are doing more to disrupt and seize alcohol and there will be hard-hitting operations from April."

HMRC had helped to drive down fraudulent activity in tobacco and spirits and was now giving wine and beer the same priority, he added.

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