Warning over illicit vodka produced with bleach and screen wash (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Operation Condor is targeting shops selling dangerous counterfeit booze
Counterfeit alcohol being sold in Waltham Forest could contain bleach, screen wash and cleaning products, officials have warned.
This week police announcedofficers had found 80 litres of counterfeit vodka in one shop in the borough, just days after SFW Express in Leytonstone its licence to sell booze for a similar offence.
The shop in Church Lane was caught with 242 bottles of illicit wines and spirits ready for sale in November.
So far this year, two joint operations have been carried out by police, HM Revenue and Customs and Trading Standards teams.
Licensing officer Matt Brown said that Operation Condor is vital for public safety.
He said: “With the counterfeit alcohol there are two strands. First of all we have the alcohol which has had no VAT paid on it and the home-made stuff.
“To the naked eye it would be almost impossible to spot counterfeit alcohol.
“We are concentrating on the high streets in the borough where there are clusters of shops like Hoe Street.
“During the operation (Condor) we seized 13,000 cigarettes from one shop.
“We did an operation a couple of months before where we targeted around 50 shops.”
The multi-agency operation targets dozens of shops per day.
There are currently around 850 licensed premises in the borough, including pubs.
PC Brown moved to reassure residents that it was a minority of shops taking part in criminal activity and that they are doing what they can to stop it, although he could not confirm the names of shops caught in the last year.
Premises which are caught selling counterfeit alcohol are still allowed to trade until full testing and licensing proceedings are complete.
“It is not an automatic revocation, it is a decision for the council’s sub-committee,” He added.
Jennie Kendall from HMRC advised drinkers to use a reputable store.
She said: “This is something that is costing the tax payer £1bn per year.
“There are alcohol factories where they will use screen wash and extract the dye using bleach for counterfeit vodka.
“This has a detrimental effect on other traders. We are working to stop the organised crime gangs involved.”
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