Alcohol licence revoked after fake vodka swoop on Sheffield shop

Spar shop in Richmond Road, Handsworth.
Spar shop in Richmond Road, Handsworth.
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A convenience store owner has been stripped of his alcohol licence after being fined by magistrates for selling poisonous fake booze.

Thalib Hussain, who runs the Spar shop on Richmond Road, Richmond, was found to have 570 bottles of counterfeit vodka when police raided the premises after a member of the public had become suspicious.

The bottles of Selekt and Kommissar vodka were found to contain industrial chemicals including chloroform, isopropranol and tertiary-butanol. Isopropranol can be fatal in large quantities while chloroform is a known carcinogen.

Coun Clive Skelton, chairman of Sheffield Council’s licensing board, said: “Our decision to revoke Mr Hussain’s licence sends a clear message to anyone tempted to sell counterfeit alcohol.

“Mr Hussain admitted he bought the fake vodka without paying VAT. He said that because he didn’t drink alcohol, he did not know what was in it.

“There were industrial contaminants present and the quantities were not known until the bottles were tested after the police raid.”

The quantities of industrial chemicals were not found to be high enough to cause serious harm - and Mr Hussain was fined £200 plus £382 costs at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court prior to the council licence review hearing.

He had pleaded guilty to selling the counterfeit goods.

Mr Skelton added: “Mr Hussain can continue to trade but can no longer sell anything requiring a licence.

“My message to other traders tempted to purchase counterfeit items is ‘don’t’.

“When people sell illicit alcohol, they put people’s lives at risk. Our committee is there to keep people safe from harm and we don’t feel that’s what was happening with Mr Hussain. He didn’t show any remorse.”

During the licensing hearing, Mr Hussain said he had bought the alcohol from a man claiming to be a supplier for the Nisa chain - although he admitted no VAT was paid in the transaction.

He said the vodka would only have caused a ‘mild stomach ache’.

Sheffield Council said 2,282 bottles of illegal alcohol had been confiscated in raids around the city in the last five months alone – more than 450 each month and a 58 per cent increase on the total seizures for 2012-13.

In 2012-13, there were 17 raids at 14 retailers in which 1,444 bottles of illegal booze were found. Three of the stores were hit twice.

The council has taken on a dedicated enforcement officer to tackle the problem, which has led to stores being prosecuted and action taken against licensees.

Coun Jack Scott, Sheffield Council cabinet member for environment, said: “We are determined to crack down on the sale of these illegal goods.

“Be warned – we will find offenders and prosecute them. We are tackling the illegal sale of alcohol head on.

“The public’s safety is at risk when consuming these products, either binge drinking or responsibly on a regular basis.”