Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Friday, July 16, 1999 Published at 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK


Jail for duty-free scam gang

Sixteen lorry loads of whisky were involved in the scam

The man behind Scotland's biggest duty-free drink scam has been jailed for six years.

Sohan Singh was at the centre of a fraudulent operation involving enough whisky and vodka to give every adult in Scotland two drinks each.

Singh, 46, from Bishopbriggs, was found guilty of defrauding the country of 1.6m in duty on 16 lorry loads of whisky over a 10-week period.

Customs investigators who brought him to justice reckoned the scam involved duty on more than eight million pub measures of whisky and vodka.

[ image: The drink was hidden at secret locations]
The drink was hidden at secret locations
Sentenced with Singh at the High Court in Glasgow were two co-accused, James Sanderson, 43, and Craig McAteer, 29.

Sanderson, from Nitshill in Glasgow, was found guilty of evading 399,000 in duty, and McAteer, from Motherwell, of evading 376,000 in duty.

They were jailed for three years and 30 months respectively.

The case against a fourth man - spirits broker Kevin Burrage, 36, of Shoeburyness near Southend - was found not proven.

Another accused, Anthony Sawers, 31, from Hamilton, also walked free from court.

Scam details

During the trial, the court heard how a series of phoney liquor exporting firms were set up to further the scam.

Fake orders for drink were faxed to a London bond. Once paid for - free of duty - the drink was supposed to be exported to Germany, France, Italy and Denmark and Spain.

But instead the consignments were driven to Scotland and hidden at secret storage places in Coatbridge, West Calder, Livingstone, Wishaw, Bannockburn, and Glasgow.

Lonely farmhouses were also used by the gang. From there, cheap drink was sold in under-the-counter deals to off-licences all over the central belt and distributed in hired vans.

Customs and Excise was so concerned at losses of duty and VAT in the west of Scotland that its elite National Investigation Service moved in.

Surveillance operation

The Customs officers secretly took photographs of the participants and the handover of drink to the buyers.

They watched off-sales owners drive away with so much whisky and vodka that their cars and vans were down on their springs.

On 11 March, 250 Customs officers swooped on 65 premises throughout the UK.

Singh and his gang were arrested and charged, and spirits they had not yet sold - worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in duty - were seized.

More than 40,000 in cash was ordered to be confiscated by the court.

After the trial, Singh was notified of the Crown's intention to seize his assets.

Sentencing Singh, Lord Phillip told him: "You were in overall control in Scotland of a wide-ranging, carefully planned and efficiently run operation designed to defraud the state and you were making large profits."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Internet Links

Scottish Courts Service

HM Customs and Excise

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online