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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Offshore off-licence sold on web
Cornish Maiden
The Cornish Maiden is currently docked in Hartlepool
A boat used to operate Britain's first offshore off-licence has been sold on the internet for less than 5,000.

The Cornish Maiden is owned by Phil Berriman from Stockton, and was used to sell cut-price alcohol and cigarettes in international waters off Hartlepool.

But the plan fell foul of UK customs officials, who said Mr Berriman was in breach of tax laws.

Mr Berriman had asked 9,950 on the eBay site, but when the auction closed on Tuesday the top bid was 4,900.

Mr Berriman, 46, is due to go to court in June, in an effort get stock seized by customs officers returned.

He claimed customers did not have to pay duty on goods bought on his boat, because tax had already been paid in the country where they were bought.

But customs officers warned potential customers they had to declare anything they purchased.

Lawful purpose

At one point, more than 100,000 worth of goods was confiscated.

No details have been revealed about the vessel's new owner.

The 50ft former lighthouse supply vessel went on sale on 25 May and received an initial bid of just 100.

Mr Berriman opted to sell the boat because he could no longer use it for its "lawful purpose".

He said: "Customs are making my life impossible. Whenever I take the boat out and come back they are all over me."

Mr Berriman still owns a yacht, the Rich Harvest, which was first used to sell duty free goods offshore in the summer of 2004.

However, Mr Berriman said the vessel was unsuitable for the task.


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