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News - 27 November 2012

Fined £10,000 for fake vodka - but only 6 months ban

A Staffordshire shopkeeper who endangered people’s health by selling dangerous counterfeit vodka has been handed a chunky £10,000 fine. Yet magistrates suspended his licence for only six months.

The prosecution is the latest in a series being carried out by the county council as part of its on-going operation to stamp out the sale of counterfeit alcohol in Staffordshire.

Sithambarapillai Gunabalasinham of Leek, Staffordshire, was found guilty of four offences under food safety and trade mark laws. Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards team had seized the counterfeit vodka and found it to contain 18 times the permitted level of methanol. Gunabalasinham was also ordered to pay £3,700 costs.

Gunabalasinham’s offences included selling drink containing dangerous levels of methanol, which is used as an antifreeze and can cause blindness, coma and even death, selling vodka which was under strength and selling counterfeit vodka. Analysis of the fake vodka also revealed the presence of t-butanol which is used in the production of cleaning fluids.

Gunabalasinham said that he had bought the vodka from a man who called at his shop in a white van and that the spirits were cheaper than he usually paid and a hand written receipt was provided. The name and address and telephone number on the receipt were all fake.

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