Suppliers ‘turning a blind eye’ to duty fraud, says wholesaler

09 July, 2010

A leading wholesaler has accused some drinks suppliers of turning a blind eye to the black market because they don’t want to lose out on sales.

Legitimate wine and beer sales are being battered by duty fraudsters, according to Russell Grant, commercial director for family firm Blakemore Wholesale.

Grant said the business’s sales on 50cl Carling had declined by 70% from 2007 to 2009 and 50cl Stella sales had dropped by 56% in the same period.

Grant told delegates at the Federation of Wholesale Distributors’ Drinksummit conference: “The story is the same for wine. Our Echo Falls sales have fallen by 37% and Blossom Hill by 26%.”?He said sales had been hit by “certain wholesalers, the inaction of HMRC and some suppliers”.

He added: “For far too long, many in this industry have turned a blind eye to mixed stock and the black market.

“Suppliers should not support non-legitimate wholesalers but they fear losing business,” he added.

The FWD’s chief executive James Bielby said alcohol fraud was costing the trade £1.2 billion.

“The majority of wholesalers are legitimate but there are growing numbers of illicit traders reaping great profits through not paying duty and tax,” he said.

Bielby said the FWD had challenged HMRC about getting information on cash and carries that were being investigated, but the government body refused because identifying depots could prejudice cases.

The FWD has also called for a register of wholesalers, a plan rejected by HMRC last month due to staff cuts and a lack of resources.

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