THE REVENUE COMMISSIONERS has warned about the dangers of fake alcohol, saying that illegally counterfeited drinks can have severe and fatal effects.
It warned today that the production of counterfeit alcohol is illegal and constitutes tax evasion, and poses a health risk as the product is not the subject of quality control and its sale is not regulated.
In 2011, there were two convictions and fines of €5,500 imposed for counterfeiting alcohol – this is down from six convictions and €22,000 in fines in 2010.
Spirits – mainly vodka – is the most common category of alcohol to be counterfeited and often is bottled and packaged to resemble the genuine product.
In many cases the alcohol is sourced from the industrial alcohol sector and may contain high quantities of methanol. Human consumption of methanol is very dangerous and can have severe and fatal affects including blindness.
Counterfeiters source bottles from recycling centres, pubs and other locations and then fill them with raw alcohol, before diluting them with water.
They are diluted to the normal strength of alcoholic spirits on the market – approximately 40 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV) or 37.5 per cent ABV.
The Revenue has even seized counterfeit metal caps, originating mainly in China and Eastern Europe, and counterfeit labels, produced mainly in China and the Far East.
In 2009 Revenue’s Customs Service detected and seized approximately 500,000 counterfeit ‘closures’ in one specific seizure.
Small quantities of counterfeit alcohol have even been detected in pubs and off licences.
In some instances these may have been supplied by a caller offering alcohol at a competitive price. Larger quantities that have been encountered involved an individual trying to distribute via the trade or selling at local markets.
It is Revenue policy to seek prosecution when counterfeit alcohol is detected, with penalties on summary conviction of a fine of €5,000 or, at the discretion of the Court, imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both.