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Customs raid illegal booze bottling plant

ALMOST 2,500 litres of suspected illicit alcohol have been seized after the discovery of an alcohol bottling plant by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in South Armagh.

Officers from HMRC and the PSNI searched an agricultural shed in the Crossmaglen area where they seized the alcohol along with counterfeit UK and Republic of Ireland duty stamps, counterfeit labels and 2,500 empty bottles.

It is estimated the alcohol seized would have cost £26, 450 in lost duty and taxes.

In unrelated activity, HMRC and PSNI dismantled a diesel laundering plant after a search of a remote warehouse in the Mullaghbawn area.

The illegal operation was capable of producing four million litres of illicit diesel a year, evading almost £2.6 million in taxes and duty. Officers removed 2.5 tonnes of toxic waste, 11,000 litres of suspected illicit fuel, a quantity of bleaching earth and a cattle truck with a concealed tank.

John Whiting, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation for HMRC, said: “HMRC suspect that the alcohol seized was made using an industrial alcohol called methanol, which could potentially pose an enormous risk to anyone drinking it.

“With counterfeit alcohol, made in a shed, you really have no idea what you are buying. We are committed to stopping this criminal activity that costs the taxpayer around £1.2 billion in unpaid revenue each year.

“The only winners from counterfeit alcohol or fuel are the criminals. I would urge anyone with information on fuel or alcohol fraud in their area to contact our free telephone hotline 0800 59 5000 and contribute to the fight against this criminality.”

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