Warning as gangs flood city with dodgy vodkas

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ALCOHOL gangs are flooding Sheffield with record amounts of illicit vodka - sparking fears over health, violent crime and anti-social behaviour.

Eight different brands of bogus or bootlegged vodka - in scores of bottles - have been seized in 10 city off-licences so far this year.

The hooch was found to have been made from watered-down industrial alcohol containing harmful chemicals including chloroform.

And the strength has varied wildly, from the 37.5 per cent advertised, to a mind-blowing 51.2 per cent.

Three off-licence owners are currently facing prosecution, and two more were cautioned earlier this year.

In the most recent raid, bottles of Glen’s vodka were seized from Steers Beers on London Road after customer John Downing complained.

Labels and contents are currently being analysed. Jeet Singh of Steers said they bought them in good faith from a cash and carry store.

Trading Standards officers are so concerned about the problem they have briefed the Violent Crime Theme Group which comprises police and medics. They say the biggest problem comes from fake drink sold from the back of vans.

Craig Fisher, senior TS officer, said: “We have not seen this level of illicit vodka in Sheffield before. The fake stuff is certainly a health risk, made who knows where and with no quality control.

“Gangs are moving out of drugs and into alcohol because it’s so lucrative.

“It’s mostly sold to shops out of the back of a white van and it’s very hard to trace.

“We’re also concerned about people ‘pre-loading’ on it before they go out for a night. If it’s much stronger than they realise it could lead to an increase in violent crime.”

Officials are also battling to halt record sales of vodka smuggled into the UK and given a fake ‘Duty Paid’ label. This avoids the £8.04 duty and VAT on a 70cl bottle.

Some bootlegged bottles have been found on sale for just £7.49. A bottle of genuine Stolychnaya vodka costs £17.49 in Asda.

Fake vodkas contained ‘ethyl alcohol not exclusively of agricultural origin’ as well as contaminants isopropanol, isopentanol and chloroform, according to Sheffield’s public analyst.

It is made by diluting industrial alcohol with tap water, not distillation.