PUBLISHED: 10:03 04 August 2017 | UPDATED: 10:03 04 August 2017
An Indian restaurant boss in Sandy has been hit with bills totalling more than £4,000 after he pleaded guilty to selling fake Smirnoff vodka.
The Taj Mahal, in London Road, was taken to court along with manager Mohammed Ali after being caught selling drinks falsely labelled as Smirnoff in the run-up to Christmas last year.
Appearing before Luton magistrates on Tuesday, Ali pleaded guilty to four counts of selling counterfeit alcohol – two for the company and two for himself as director.
Taj Mahal (Sandy) Ltd was fined £500, ordered to pay costs of £1,350 and £30 surcharge, while Ali was fined £800, ordered to pay costs £1,350 and £40 surcharge – making a total of £4,070.
Ali was caught as part of a sting carried out by Central Bedfordshire Council’s public protection team, which visited 40 businesses to ensure party-goers were getting what they paid for.
They carried out on-site checks, looking for businesses serving alcoholic drinks that had been watered down or which were cheaper or fake alcohol bearing the labels of known brands.
The Taj Mahal was one of two restaurants found to be selling fake Smirnoff vodka. A council spokesman said it was not yet naming the other business and it had not decided what action to take.
Councillor Ian Dalgarno, responsible for community services, said: “Businesses may be tempted to sell watered-down or cheaper alcohol to customers thinking they are getting the genuine product in a bid to make a bit of extra money.
“However, as this case proves, the council takes this matter very seriously.
“If you’re caught then you will be investigated and are likely to end up with a criminal record, as well as facing everything from a hefty fine and a possible prison sentence to a recovery order to pay back all the illegal profits.
“There is an even more serious side to this too, because fake alcoholic drinks may contain dangerous chemicals such as cleaning fluids, nail polish remover and screen wash which can cause serious illness or even death.”
Businesses are advised to only buy alcohol from reputable suppliers and to keep an itemised VAT receipt. Customers should look out for fake alcohol by looking at the price, packaging and product name.
Anyone concerned they may not have been sold what they paid for should call the public protection team on 0300 300 8642 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.