Criminal factory making fake Smirnoff uncovered

14th July, 2014 by Amy Hopkins

Investigators have discovered a factory in east London where a criminal gang is producing up to 7,000 bottles of fake Smirnoff vodka a day.


A factory making 7,000 bottles of counterfeit Smirnoff vodka a day has been discovered in east London

Channel 5 recently broadcast the first episode of its Black Market Britain programme revealing the prevalence of the counterfeit spirits market in the UK.

Journalists working on the programme discovered a criminal factory where machines are used to replicate labels of leading spirits brands such as Smirnoff vodka, Glen’s vodka and Grant’s whisky.

Paul Connolly, the journalist behind the investigation, said that the UK’s black market for spirits was a “huge and growing problem”.

“It is sinister because the bottles are often filled with toxic chemicals. The bottles they make look so realistic they would be almost impossible to spot by an untrained eye.

“And given that the factory is producing on such a large scale, it’s almost certain they are being sold in supermarkets as well as smaller off-licences.”

Shortly after the programme was aired, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office warned that as many as one in five off-licenses in certain locations across the country are selling counterfeit goods.

A spokesperson for the IPO also told The Independent 33,000 bottles of counterfeit vodka made in Latvia had recently been seized by the UK Border Force.

Though officials would not disclose which brands were affected, they said the government would have lost around £500,000 in duty.

“We are fully aware that there are serious and organised criminals who put the health of consumers at risk with little regard for the consequences,” an IPO spokesperson told The Independent. “Recent seizures have shown that industrial alcohol, anti-freeze and other noxious substances have been found in fake spirits.

“Consumers should be aware that if a deal is too good to be true, it normally is.”

Smirnoff vodka targeted

Smirnoff vodka is a brand frequently replicated by counterfeit gangs. In January last year, British consumers were advised to look out for telltale signs of counterfeit vodka, after warnings that bottles of fake Smirnoff were circulating in the country.

A spokesperson for Smirnoff’s parent company, Diageo, said: “At Smirnoff, the protection of our consumers and the reputation of all our brands is of paramount importance to us. As such, we work closely to assist all enforcement bodies including the Police, HMRC and Trading Standards as we recognise the important and valuable role they have in protecting consumers.”

“Counterfeit is rarely a problem if consumers buy their products from known, reputable retailers. If people are in any way concerned about the taste or packaging of any of our products that they have purchased, they should call the Diageo consumer care helpline on 0845 6014558.”

Figures released in June this year also showed that the amount of counterfeit alcohol seized by UK authorities had soared fivefold in the past five years.

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