Driver caught with 840 bottles of fake vodka due to police noticing van 'leaning to one side'

A fraudster who planned to export 840 bottles of bootleg vodka was caught - after police noticed his top heavy van leaning to one side

The fake 'Glen's' bottles.
The fake 'Glen's' bottles.

Delivery driver Muhammad Ahmad was caught with the counterfeit Glen's vodka after he was spotted driving his top heavy van in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, on June 18, 2017.

The vodka was from a consignment originally produced in the UK and was destined for the Netherlands, and worth £9,000 in duty.

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A HM Revenue and Customs investigation team visited Greenock police office less than 24 hours later and found that the duty labels on all of the bottles were fake.

Ahmad, 28, gave various confusing accounts of events about his involvement in the 'very serious' offence.

He told a sheriff the booze wasn't his after declaring to police he'd bought it at a cash and carry - then said the vodka was fake and he'd paid £2,000 for it.

He came up with a fourth story after being ordered to explain himself at a special hearing held at Greenock Sheriff Court to get to the bottom of the matter.

Ahmad, of the town's Kilcreggan View, now claims he was asked by a friend to deliver the 840 bottles of Glen's in return for a cash payment.

Despite his claims, he pleaded guilty to having been knowingly involved in the evasion of duty on the large haul, breaching Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 and evading £9,001.37 in duty.

The figure was originally £14,588 but this was reduced following talks between defence lawyer Aidan Gallagher and prosecutors.

It's understood that frauds of this nature above £10,000 automatically trigger a prison sentence.

Defence brief Mr Gallagher previously told the court: "He says that the vodka was not his, but that it was found in his van and he was driving the van and in possession of it at the time."

But prosecutor Jennifer McKee said: "He initially advised police that he'd bought the vodka from a cash and carry the day before.

"He then changed his story to say that he paid "!,000 per pallet and that the vodka was fake."

Sheriff Daniel Kelly told Ahmad: "This is a very serious matter where custody has to be considered but I am narrowly persuaded that there is a direct alternative in the form of a community payback order."

Ahmad was handed a community payback order of 210 hours of unpaid work, to be completed within 12 months.

He was also ordered to wear an electronic tag and remain at home between 7pm and 7am for three months.

A spokesman for HMRC said: "This was a deliberate attempt to undercut legitimate traders, evading more than £9,000 in duty - money which should have been funding our public services.

"HMRC will continue to level the playing field and pursue criminals who attack the tax system."