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Publication date:- 2017-07-10

user-generated Headlines and reports on this page = 5 news items.    Page - 2.

Arrests linked to smuggled cigs and fake vodka factory

5 men have been arrested in Liverpool during raids linked to a suspected ₤100,000 Tax fraud involving smuggled cigarettes, an illegal vodka factory and Tax Credits fraud.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) visited several address across Liverpool and Sefton, on Tuesday, 3 October 2017, as part of an ongoing investigation into previous seizures of illicit cigarettes and fake vodka in the region, as well as associated money laundering.

Officers also discovered and dismantled a fake vodka bottling plant in July 2017, in Aintree.

During the operation HMRC Officers:-

Searched premises in Formby, Knotty Ash, Mossley Hill, Walton, and Woolton.

Aarrested 5 men aged 39, 44, 47, 48 and 55.

Discovered a suspected amphetamine laboratory, at 1 address.

Angela McCalmon, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:- "We will continue to act to disrupt suspected criminal activity. This investigation is still at an early stage but shows the spectrum of suspected crimes that can be uncovered in 1 enquiry. HMRC will work closely with our partners to ensure there is no further risk to public health or the public purse from these suspected activities. Dealing in illicit tobacco and alcohol harms honest businesses and steals money destined for public services. It is important that anyone in the area with information about the illegal trade in tobacco or alcohol reports it to our Hotline on:- 0800 788 887."

In March 2017, HMRC seized 199,780 suspected counterfeit Mayfair King cigarettes, in the Aintree area, which was worth ₤56,138.68 in evaded Excise Duty and VAT. In July 2017, a fake vodka bottling plant in Aintree was dismantled and bottles labelled as No. 01 Imperial Vodka Blue were seized. It was worth an estimated ₤45,000 in unpaid Excise Duty. Subsequent chemical tests found the alcohol, although not toxic, contained compounds that should not be present in vodka.  Prior to the arrests, HMRC Officers also uncovered a suspected substantial Tax Credit fraud.  HMRC also called in Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire Brigade to deal with the chemicals, located at the suspected drugs factory.

Anyone with information regarding fraud can contact the HMRC Fraud hotline, on:- 0800 788 887 or report it online.


8 out of 10 people have little knowledge of what Taxis and Minicabs are legally allowed to do

THE majority of people in North England could be at risk of using illegally operating or 'fake' vehicles because they have little knowledge of how Taxis and Private Hire vehicles (Minicabs) can legally operate, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

The poll reveals that 77% of people in North England say that they have little or no knowledge about what Taxis and Minicabs are legally allowed to do. Only 15% of people feel knowledgeable about how Taxis and Minicabs can legally operate. Most worryingly, people do not know what Minicabs are legally allowed to do when picking up passengers. Although all Private Hire vehicles must be pre booked by law, 24% of people think that Minicabs can be hailed on the street, and 29% of people believe Minicabs can take passengers who approach them while parked. This is concerning as licensed Minicab drivers that pick up unbooked passengers are committing a criminal offence, and drivers that operate without a licence pose a serious risk to passenger safety. These illegal drivers and their vehicles are not subject to regulations, checks and journey recording. They are uninsured, unsafe and could be linked to more serious crimes, such as assault, rape and robbery.

In the North, the survey results suggest that illegal and unsafe touts may be able to pick up unsuspecting passengers. 41% of people have taken a Taxi or Minicab without checking for a licence on the vehicle 1st, and 55% have taken a Taxi or Minicab without asking to see the driver's ID badge 1st. Furthermore, 4% of people in the North admit that they have used a Taxi or Minicab that they knew was illegal, in comparison to 7% in London.

The poll, which is released just after fresher's week, also revealed that students are the least clear about the difference between Taxis and Minicabs. 87% of students say that they have little or no knowledge about what Taxis and Minicabs are legally allowed to do. As prominent customers of the night time economy, this makes students one of the most vulnerable groups using Taxis and Minicabs.

These statistics, which are published on:- 'National Personal Safety Day,' raise personal safety concerns around illegally operating Private Hire vehicles. If people are unaware of how Taxis and Minicabs can legally operate, they are unable to check vehicles are acting legally, and cannot make a safe and informed choice.

Suzy Lamplugh Trust advises anyone using public transport to plan their journey before they go out, and to share information about their journey with someone they trust. If you're using a Taxi or Minicab, check that a Taxi or Minicab licence is displayed on the vehicle, and ask to see the driver's badge, before you start your journey. If you're using a Minicab, remember it must be booked in advance. Always trust your instincts; if you feel worried or threatened, ask the driver to stop in a busy area, so you can get out.

Rachel Griffin, Chief Executive of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, commented:- 'People have the right to be able to choose between the modes of transport they use, and to be safe when doing so. We are concerned that many people are unaware of the difference between Taxis and Minicabs, and may therefore not have the knowledge to make safe choices about which vehicles to use. It is important that people are informed about their choices, and can easily identify licensed vehicles and distinguish between Taxis and Minicabs in their area. Licensed Taxis and Minicabs are regulated, and each type of vehicle must abide by rules which help to keep passengers and drivers safe. It is never a victim's fault if they are assaulted or experience aggression as a result of using a Taxi or Minicab, and any reports or concerns about drivers should be taken seriously by the Police. Violent and aggressive incidents which take place on public transport are completely unacceptable, and perpetrators must be held to account for their actions."

James Button, President of the Institute of Licensing and Solicitor, said:- "Taxis and Private Hire vehicles are a very safe and convenient form of transport, driven by drivers who have been vetted by the licensing authority and who provide a great service; however, there are always those who will try to take advantage of unsuspecting people. Although you might want to get home quickly, it is far better to get home safely. Always check that the vehicle has a licence plate or sticker displayed identifying the vehicle as either a hackney carriage or Private Hire vehicle, and ask to see the driver's badge. Any licensed driver should be happy to show a passenger his badge, and if they can't or won't, don't get into the vehicle. It is better to wait a few minutes for another vehicle than get into an unlicensed vehicle or ride with an unlicensed driver. You might be okay, but you might not, and that is simply not worth the risk. I am delighted the Suzy Lamplugh Trust are emphasising Taxis and Private Hire vehicles as part of their National Personal Safety Day and I am sure that it will help the public understand what they need to check before using a Taxi or Private Hire vehicle. I hope that the licensed drivers, operators and vehicle proprietors will support it wholeheartedly, and the public will heed the advice."

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