Fake vodka gang member jailed for two years

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Related tags: Bottle

A ‘chemist’ in the middle of a major counterfeit vodka manufacturing and bottling plant in Leicestershire has been jailed for two years.

Wojciech Jan Herbst, is the sixth and final member of the gang to be jailed for his part in the scam. Five other men were sentenced last year (25 November 2011) for their role in the plot, following an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Herbst, from Poland, made the denatured alcohol (methylated spirits) clear before it was diluted and bottled and passed off as genuine product.

Denatured alcohol such as methylated spirit is coloured purple to distinguish it from drinkable alcohol and is not fit for human consumption. It is used as a solvent and contains hundreds of additives.

The plot was uncovered in an industrial unit by HMRC when they carried out raids in September 2009. They seized 9,000 bottles of fake vodka, branded as Glen’s, manufacturing equipment, bottles and counterfeit packaging – labels and cardboard boxes, at the remote industrial unit at Moscow Farm near Great Dalby, Leicestershire.

During the case last year, the court heard there was a complete lack of any fire safety measures which posed a serious and life threatening hazard. The alcohol vapour alone could have triggered a major explosion if the lights had been switched on or a naked flame or cigarette had been lit.

Evidence showed around 165,000 bottles of the fake vodka had been distributed across the UK for sale.

HMRC’s assistant director of criminal investigation Simon De Kayne said: “This was a substantial production, bottling and distribution plant on an industrial scale. His gang would have known they were putting this highly toxic product into a bottle for human consumption.

"However, they were only interested in lining their pockets, with no regard for the health of consumers or the safety of those working at the unit or for the local environment. The revenue loss to public finances was £1.5 million.”

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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