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Brierley Hill man given suspended jail term over deadly fake vodka scam
11:08am Friday 25th January 2013 in News
A BRERLEY Hill man has been given a suspended jail term for his part in a scam to manufacture deadly fake vodka.
Gavin Berrow, of Amblecote Road, together with Alex Rollason from Old Hill and Michael Woodlock from West Bromwich, used industrial alcohol containing dangerous levels of methanol, which is used in anti-freeze, solvent and cleaning fluids, to create their counterfeit Arctic Ice vodka.
Anyone consuming the dodgy drink could expect to suffer nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness, blindness, kidney or liver problems, a coma or death - Birmingham Crown Court heard.
The illegal operation was discovered when HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers raided an industrial unit in Brewery Street in Birmingham city centre - just six days after five men were killed in an explosion at an illicit vodka distillery in Boston, Lincolnshire, on July 13 2011.
HMRC criminal investigators seized more than 2,500 litres of fake vodka, thousands of 70cl empty glass bottles and bottle caps, industrial containers - three containing industrial alcohol of 96 per cent - and a host of paraphernalia associated with the production of illegal booze.
Adrian Farley, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said: “This was a substantial bottling, production and distribution plant. It was capable of making and distributing large quantities of counterfeit vodka throughout the country, with the potential of costing the UK taxpayer nearly £500,000 in lost revenue.
“The crime gang took no precautions to make the environment safe creating a high risk of an explosion and loss of life in their city centre unit. They were fully aware that the counterfeit vodka, which contained dangerous levels of methanol, was unfit to drink."
After the raid ensuing joint investigations with local authorities in the West Midlands soon revealed that Arctic Ice had already been circulated to a number of independent stores.
The deadly drink that had already been distributed, however, was soon seized by Trading Standards officers who swooped on stores in Birmingham, Hereford, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcester.
For his part in the scam - Berrow, aged 42, was sentenced to four months in jail, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Rollason, aged 20, of Halesowen Road, was also given a four-month jail term, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
While Woodlock, aged 52, of Greswold Street, was jailed for 12 months.
All three were sentenced yesterday (Thursday) January 24 after pleading guilty to charges of Fraudulent Evasion of Excise Duty Contrary to the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
Mr Farley said: "They duped the public into buying what they believed were legitimate goods when in fact the counterfeit vodka could have killed them."