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How Customs took the shine off Spice Girl's gift

VICTORIA ADAMS, the Spice Girl known as Posh, has fallen foul of the men and women whose task it is to protect these shores against smugglers, drug traffickers and booty runners.

Adams, of course, is none of these, but the dark-haired singer who has fuelled thousands of adolescent (and adult) fantasies has none the less had a run-in with HM Customs and Excise. Her "crime", it seems, is failing to declare the engagement ring she bought for her fiance, the Manchester United footballer David Beckham, while in the United States.

It was revealed yesterday the 23-year-old singer, famous for her sultry stares, has been forced to pay a reported pounds 3,000 to customs officials in unpaid duty.

The singer bought the pounds 50,000 diamond encrusted gold ring at the exclusive jewellery store Van Cleef and Arpels on Rodeo Drive, Hollywood, when the group were in the US for the premiere of the Spice Girls' film Spiceworld last month.

But it is understood that Customs officials based at Manchester airport spotted the ring in newspaper photographs of Adams and 22-year-old Beckham in a Cheshire hotel on 25 January. The couple had called a photo shoot to announce their engagement to the world.

A Customs and Excise source yesterday said: "[Adams] brought a ring into the country and failed to declare the duty." There was apparently no explanation as to why customs officials were poring over pictures of the soon-to be- married couple.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Adams, said the singer had made a "temporary payment" to Customs.

"She temporarily brought the ring into the UK before having it returned to America to be remade," she said.

"It is still unclear if tax is now due. Her representatives and accountants have been talking to Customs and Excise to clear up any confusion and a temporary payment has been made.

The spokeswoman insisted: "But she has not been fined."

No such complications for Beckham: he bought Adams's ring - a pounds 40,000 solitaire band - from a Manchester jewellers.

The wedding is set to take place next summer.