Skip to content
HMRC seized cigarettes
HMRC seized cigarettes

Press release -

Arrests linked to smuggled cigs and fake vodka factory

Five men have been arrested in Liverpool during raids linked to a suspected £100,000 tax fraud involving smuggled cigarettes, an illegal vodka factory and tax credits fraud.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) visited several address across Liverpool and Sefton, on Tuesday (3 October) as part of an ongoing investigation into previous seizures of illicit cigarettes and fake vodka in the region, as well as associated money laundering.

Officers also discovered and dismantled a fake vodka bottling plant in July this year in Aintree.

During the operation HMRC officers:

  • searched premises in Formby, Knotty Ash, Mossley Hill, Walton, and Woolton
  • arrested five men aged 39, 44, 47, 48 and 55
  • discovered a suspected amphetamine laboratory at one address.

Angela McCalmon, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“We will continue to act to disrupt suspected criminal activity. This investigation is still at an early stage but shows the spectrum of suspected crimes that can be uncovered in one enquiry. HMRC will work closely with our partners to ensure there is no further risk to public health or the public purse from these suspected activities.

“Dealing in illicit tobacco and alcohol harms honest businesses and steals money destined for public services. It is important that anyone in the area with information about the illegal trade in tobacco or alcohol reports it to our Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

In March 2017, HMRC seized 199,780 suspected counterfeit Mayfair King cigarettes in the Aintree area, which was worth £56,138.68 in evaded Excise Duty and VAT.

In July 2017, a fake vodka bottling plant in Aintree was dismantled and bottleslabelled as No 01 Imperial Vodka Blue were seized. It was worth an estimated £45,000 in unpaid Excise Duty.

Subsequent chemical tests found the alcohol, although not toxic, contained compounds that should not be present in vodka.

Prior to the arrests, HMRC officers also uncovered a suspected substantial tax credit fraud.

HMRC called in Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire Brigade to deal with the chemicals at the suspected drugs factory.

Notes for editors

1.In July 2017, HMRC dismantled the fake vodka plant in Aintree for further details and photographs see

2.Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of the HMRC strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco trade which costs the UK almost £2.4 billion per year and the illicit alcohol market, which costs the UK around £1.8 billion per year.

3.HMRC published its latest Alcohol Strategy in March 2016. Since publication of the previous anti-fraud strategy in 2010 to March 2016 we have seized 50 million litres of illicit alcohol with a duty value of £106 million and levied penalties of over £84 million, and losses protected by our enforcement have increased each year, exceeding £1.8 billion last year. We’re continuing to implement key measures from the strategy, including the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme which started in April 2017.

4.HMRC can also levy civil penalties on anyone handling, using or supplying non-duty paid tobacco or alcohol products.

5.Anyone with information regarding fraud can contact the HMRC Fraud hotline on 0800 788 887 or report it online via:

6.Follow HMRC’s Press Office on Twitter @hmrcpressoffice

7.HMRC’s Flickr channel




Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.

Press contacts

HMRC Press Office

HMRC Press Office

Press contact 03000 585018

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
100 Parliament St
SW1A 2BQ London