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BLRA spokesman Tim Hampson speaks to the BBC
"More than one million pints is illegally sold on"
 real 28k

Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 03:21 GMT
Beer smuggling 'on the rise'

Beer smuggling The flood of beer across the Channel is increasing

Smuggling beer into the UK from across the Channel has become one of the fastest-growing retail businesses of 1999, a survey has said.

Figures compiled by the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association (BLRA) estimate more than 100,000 heavily-laden vans will have made the journey from Calais in northern France during the year.

The beer-runners are well organised and are cheating the country out of millions of pounds of taxes
It says this is an increase of almost 12% on the 1998 figure, and almost twice the number of six years ago.

Buying cheap beer in France, where duty is about one-eighth of that in the UK, is not an offence for Britons if it is for personal use.

But importing it for resale is smuggling and the BLRA estimates the "van man" trade in illegal beer is growing massively.

Undercover surveillance

Since the formation of the Single Market for Europe in 1993, which allowed free personal imports of beer, the BLRA has charted the rise of "van man" through undercover surveillance in Calais and other French ports.

The industry group said many smugglers were getting wise to the attention customs officers gave to larger vans and have been switching to less conspicuous small vans, people carriers and estate cars.

Beer duty Duty on beer in France is one eighth the UK level
The BLRA's intelligence estimated the South East of England was the most likely destination for beer-runners, with more than 12,600 vans a year thought to be headed into London alone.

Next most popular was the north of England, with Sheffield (6,970 vans per year), Newcastle upon Tyne (4,790), Manchester (4,480) and Leeds (4,110) all showing increases on 1998.

More than one in six of the beer-runners came from the Midlands, with 3,980 vans coming from Birmingham alone.

A BLRA spokesman said: "Six years into the Single Market and the flood of beer coming across the Channel is still increasing.

"The beer-runners are well organised and are cheating the country out of millions of pounds of taxes, and with such a massive rise in the number of vans in 1999 the market for the selling of this beer must be one of the fastest growing retail sectors in the UK."

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