Sergeant made £200,000 selling beer to troops

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The Independent Online

A British Army finance sergeant made more than £200,000 in just 12 weeks by selling alcohol to thousands of soldiers in Iraq, a court was told yesterday.

Staff Sergeant Mark McKay, 35, set up his personal "retail facility" when he was deployed for the war between February and May 2003. He was arrested by military police the following year when £100,175 allegedly stolen from an SAS cash office was found hidden in plant pots outside his home in Ballykelly, Northern Ireland, where he was posted after leaving the elite unit.

Sgt McKay denies stealing Ministry of Defence funds. John Mackenzie, defending, told the court martial at Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire, that the astonishing profits Sgt McKay made from his alcohol shop were achieved by buying cases of beer for £10 and selling them on to coalition troops for £37 or £50, Mr Mackenzie said.

In the first week he made £1,502 from his enterprise, which, said Mr Mackenzie, was carried out with the permission of the unit quarter master. In week six of the deployment he made £16,228 in profit, the trial heard.

"His estimate is that over the 12 weeks this venture made a $371,000 (£185,825) profit," said Mr Mackenzie.

The court has heard how Sgt McKay put £100,175 of his "profits" in a safe before transferring it to a terracotta plant pot outside his front door in Ballykelly.

The case continues.