HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has seized more than 100,000 litres of illicit alcohol and disrupted alcohol-related criminal gangs as part of a Europe-wide initiative tackling international organised crime.
Operation Archimedes, a Europol intelligence-led operation, involved law enforcement officers in 34 countries and resulted in arrests of 1,027 people across Europe and seizures of 599kg of cocaine and 200kg heroin and 30 children were saved from trafficking.
In the UK the operation was spearheaded by HMRC, which used intense activity to disrupt alcohol smuggling across northern European countries and into the UK, with support from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy.
HMRC, working together with Border Force, Trading Standards and Kent Police, seized 137,124 litres of illegal alcohol during the operation, which took place between Monday 15 September and Thursday 19 September 2014.
*132,940 litres of beer seized (almost a quarter of a million pints);
* 260 litres of spirits seized (more than 300 bottles of spirits);
* 3,924 litres of wine seized (more than 4,000 bottles of wine);
* seven vehicles seized.
More than 250 HMRC officers, as well as officers from partner agencies in the UK and across Europe, took part in the operation targeting alcohol smuggling at UK ports (Dover, Tilbury, Purfleet) and inland at 23 locations including alcohol retail units, haulier truck stops, industrial units and warehouses across England.
Colleagues in The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy took similar action at their borders, lorry parks and storehouses where they suspected the movement of illicit alcohol, and “ghost” bonded warehouses.
John Pointing, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said: “Alcohol smuggling costs the UK economy around £1bn a year in lost revenue. HMRC is committed to tackling alcohol crime and this month’s action has had an outstanding impact in bringing law enforcement agencies across the UK and Europe together to disrupt one of the most serious organised criminal threats.
“We encourage anyone with information regarding alcohol smuggling and fraud to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 595000.”
“Operation Archimedes is a milestone in attempts by the law enforcement community to deliver concerted action against organised crime groups in Europe. The scale of the operation is unprecedented and the outcome, with over 1,000 arrests made across Europe, a reminder to even the most serious criminal groups that the international law enforcement community is determined to combat their illegal activities,” said Rob Wainwright, director of Europol.