Pubs targeted over alcohol smuggling

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The Independent Online
CUSTOMS OFFICERS are launching a crackdown on retailers who sell smuggled alcohol and tobacco in the run-up to Christmas.

Operation Mistletoe will target shops, pubs and clubs throughout the country who cost the Treasury an estimated pounds 1bn a year in lost revenue by selling bootlegged goods.

Customs & Excise said it was launching a "seasonal slam" that would involve "repeated raids" on gangs who smuggle and their outlets.

Diana Barrett, head of anti-smuggling operations, said Customs & Excise was "determined to cause widespread disruption to people involved in this crime".

She added: "It is unfair to honest retailers and is costing the taxpayer millions.

"Smugglers and fraudsters will find that not only may their goods be seized immediately by Customs but that we will be using all options available to prosecute or revoke licences."

Operation Mistletoe follows a government review of Customs & Excise that resulted in an extra pounds 35m funding over three years to tackle smuggling. Last year, Customs officers seized smuggled goods worth pounds 76m.

Mike Ripley, a spokesman for the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association, said anything to curb smuggling must be welcomed. "However, the real answer to this problem rests with the Government which insists on taxes on alcohol which are not just out of line, but way out of line with our European neighbours. When those neighbours are only 22 miles away on a ferry crossing, you have a problem," he said.