A gang of criminals who ran a counterfeit vodka factory in Hackney have been imprisoned for a total of more than 56 years for conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.
The group, who were sentenced yesterday at Southwark Crown Court, ran a fully-mechanised distillery and factory in Dalston Lane to produce the illegal goods – potentially depriving authorities of more than £16 million in duty and VAT.
More than 1.3 million litres of vodka were made at the ‘rat infested’ plant, which was capable of producing 24 bottles a minute.
The gang also employed Polish workers to produce the alcohol, who were housed in ‘filthy’ on-site accommodation.
A second factory, in Enfield, was used to produce 9.5 tonnes of counterfeit rolling tobacco.
The gang’s leader, Harvey Conroy, 60, from Whetstone, was sentenced to 12 years in jail for his part in the ‘determined and professional’ outfit. Five other members were also given prison terms.
The fraudsters were caught after an international investigation by Customs officers and law enforcement from other European countries.
Authorities discovered ethanol used to make the vodka had been brought from Eastern Europe, while the tobacco was stored in Holland. Fake packaging for the products was made in Cyprus.
Simon Grunwell, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation at HMRC, said: “HM Revenue & Customs is committed to protecting the public purse from attacks by organised crime gangs trying to steal vast amounts of money. Where we find fraud we will act without delay to bring those responsible to justice.”