Fine for Irish bar owner selling fake vodka

A bar owner from County Derry, Northern Ireland, has been fined £1,500 for selling counterfeit vodka.

The owner of Castle Bar, M, C & A Trading Ltd pleaded guilty to selling under-strength counterfeit vodka; specifically, to two charges under the Trade Marks Act 1994 and one charge under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

During the court case, the court heard that consumers were misled into believing the vodka was genuine.

The owners argued that they had hired an experienced bar manager to run the bar but had not been aware the manager had bought the vodka at a cheaper price from a door-to-door salesman, the Derry Journal reported.

The owners, however, accepted ultimate responsibility for the sale of the illicit alcohol.

The fine follows a Trading Standards investigation in November 2015 that was part of a Europe-wide crackdown on counterfeit food and drink.

An inspection of the Castle Bar premises discovered seven bottles of Smirnoff vodka in the bar area that was suspected as counterfeit.

Examination and testing by the brand owner confirmed the vodka was spurious. The labels and caps were fake, while the liquid was found to have an alcohol strength of 32.4 per cent rather than the legal minimum requirement of 37.5 per cent in order to be classified as vodka.

"Customers pay good money for a branded item. This was counterfeit and under strength," said Nicholas Lane, of the Trading Standards Service. "Counterfeit spirits are frequently made and bottled in unhygienic conditions with no quality control. In this case the trademark representative expressed concern at the poor visual clarity of, and the presence of particles in, the bottles of spirit he examined."

Fake vodka has become a common occurrence in Ireland and is resulting in a number of crackdowns and seizures.

In June last year, a Northern Irish bar owner was fined £6,000 for selling fake Smirnoff vodka after 24 bottles of under-strength counterfeits with fake labels were found during an investigation.

In August last year, a Belfast social club was found to be selling counterfeit vodka, then a month later fake vodka was found at the pub owned by former Irish hurling star Lar Corbett.

In 2015, a raid on premises in Louth discovered 4,500 bottles of fake vodka and caught seven people applying counterfeit labels to bottles.

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