A SHOPKEEPER who sold illegal alcohol from a village store has shown ‘absolute neglect’ for his customers, a senior councillor has claimed.
Pat Corfield spoke out after Stretton Village Store in Main Street, Stretton, was found to be selling counterfeit and super-strength vodka that was ‘unfit for human consumption’.
Councillor Corfield, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for communities, said trading standards teams had visited every independent alcohol seller in the county in a campaign against bootleg booze.
Suman Tharmathurai, 30, the store’s owner, has been ordered to complete 140 hours’ community work and pay more than £1,500 in fines and costs by Stafford Magistrates’ Court after admitting six breaches of trading regulations.
Councillor Corfield said: “The sale of counterfeit alcohol is a serious problem and one we have tackled head-on for the last 15 months.
“We have seen a number of prosecutions in recent weeks and we want to send a strong message that this will not be tolerated in Staffordshire.
“Our trading standards team left no stone unturned and visited every independent off-licence in the county.
Counterfeit alcohol can seriously damage people’s health and consumers need to be aware of its dangers.” He added: “Off-licence owners have a responsibility to their communities and there has been absolute neglect from this individual in this case.
“We will continue to crack down on licensees who break the law and do everything we can to stamp out the sale of counterfeit alcohol.”
Consumer protection workers found Tharmathurai, who lives above his store, was selling bottles of vodka that contained 20 times more methanol than legally permitted. Methanol is a chemical used to make anti-freeze and can cause blindness if drunk.
He also sold bottles of counterfeit vodka bearing the labels of established brands, such as Smirnoff and Glen’s.
These labels also contained untrue information about the bottles’ contents.