Customs hits trade in Calais

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Smuggling

Customs and Excise's crackdown on alcohol smuggling is believed to be working following the closure of several Calais warehouses.Customs says proof...

Customs and Excise's crackdown on alcohol smuggling is believed to be working following the closure of several Calais warehouses.

Customs says proof its efforts are working can be seen in the downturn in trade at Calais cash and carries such as Boozers.

But the trade is sceptical about the effects of the Government's £209m investment in fighting bootleggers, and is continuing to campaign for a reduction in duty.

Customs officers have been seizing up to 171 vehicles every week over the summer in an attempt to stop bootlegged booze reaching the UK and this has made professional smugglers more cautious.

Innocent holiday makers are also more nervous about buying alcohol abroad. A grey area in the law means that although the Treasury gives limits for what can be imported, the European Union maintains there is free movement providing the goods will not be sold on the black market.

Earlier this year, Customs officers were accused of being heavy handed by EU officials but they said this was necessary in order to clamp down on illegal alcohol entering Britain.

While trade is down in the cash and carries, by as much as 50 per cent in some, there is still a thriving market for the so-called "booze-cruises". The British licensed trade insists the Customs' crackdown affects only the tip of the iceberg and tackling the issue of beer duty is the answer.

Georgina Wald, spokeswoman for the British Institute of Innkeeping, said: "People will always take risks if there is money to be made. This is great news but my suspicion is that the only long-term solution is to address the duty issue."

Related stories:

Customs continues to clamp down on "booze cruisers" (31 July 2001)

New strategy to tackle bootlegging (29 June 2001)

Boateng rules out cut in duty (6 July 2001)

Related topics: Legislation

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