Retailer prosecuted after seizure of illegal vodka
A shopkeeper who sold vodka containing ten times the permitted level of methanol, an industrial alcohol, from his off-licence has been given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £1,600 in costs.
After being prosecuted by Dorset County Council’s trading standards service, Mr Erkan Hinisli, 29, of Turbary Wines at Turbary Road, Ferndown, pleaded guilty to offences under The Food Safety Act 1990, and associated food regulations.
The offences included selling drink containing prohibited levels of methanol, selling vodka which was under strength, and not being able to identify his supplier.
He also pleaded guilty to one offence under The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 of selling vodka falsely bearing customs ‘duty paid’ labels, which gave the impression the bottles were legal. Mr Hinisli is a Director of Den-Mar (UK) Limited which trades as Turbary Wines.
The court heard how the trading standards service had received a complaint from a customer claiming the vodka had made him feel ill, rather than drunk. Officers visited the shop and made a test purchase of the ‘Granton’ brand vodka, which was then analysed. It was discovered that the customs ‘duty paid’ stamps were counterfeit and officers returned to the shop and seized 72 bottles of vodka and two bottles of whisky.
Mr Hinisli later said that he had bought the spirits from a man who called at his shop in a white van and claimed to be representing a local cash and carry. The spirits were cheaper than he usually paid and no receipt was provided.
In sentencing, the court took the small monthly wage Mr Hinsili was earning from the shop and his previous good character into account. Chairman of the magistrates, said: “You took a risk to get more profit, despite the risk to the public.”
Ivan Hancock, trading standards service manager at Dorset County Council, said:
“Our priority when this came to light was to make sure members of the public were not put at risk. Officers visited local independent off-licences in the area after these spirits were seized, but no other stocks of this vodka were found.
“Food and drink retailers must be cautious about what they are selling to consumers. Any trader who buys stock, particularly alcohol, from an untraceable source such as casual van sales, and without proper invoices, is not thinking about the safety of their customers.”
Anyone who has recently purchased this brand of vodka should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06. This is the first point of contact for any consumer complaints requiring investigation by trading standards officers.
Notes for editors
1. For further information, call Martin Thursby, principal trading standards officer, or Ivan Hancock, trading standards service manager, on 01305 224012.
2. Photos are of the seized bottles are attached.
3. The four offences Mr Hinisli is guilty of were that due to his neglect as a director, DEN-MAR (UK) LTD, his company which operated as Turbary Wines:
o sold vodka that was not of the substance demanded by the purchaser in that it contained ten times the permitted level of methanol, contrary to Section 14 of the Food Safety Act 1990
o failed to comply with traceability requirements for food as he was unable to provide details of the supplier of the vodka contrary to Regulation 4(c) of The General Food Regulations 2004.
o sold vodka, branded as ‘Granton’, that failed to comply with standards for spirit drinks, as it contained ten times the permitted level of methanol and was deficient in alcohol by 1.8% of the minimum required alcoholic strength, contrary to Regulation 4(1) of The Spirit Drinks Regulations 2008, and
o engaged in an unfair commercial practice by creating the impression that 70cl bottles of ‘Granton’ branded vodka could legally be sold when they could not, in that they were labelled with a false ‘HM Revenue & Customs’ mark, contrary to Regulation 12 of The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
4. For more information on trading standards law and the work of the county council’s trading standards service, visit www.dorsetforyou.com/tradingstandards