Sales of counterfeit vodka have cost the owner and manager of two Stockton shops more than £2,000 in fines and costs.
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council prosecuted 43-year-old Jeneesan Arockyanathan at Teesside Magistrates Court today (22 September).
Trading Standards officers from the Council inspected Mr Arockyanathan’s shop, Jaime’s Store in Centenary Crescent, after a member of the public claimed that a bottle of Glen’s Vodka bought there had an unusual smell and taste. It was later confirmed that the product was not genuine Glen’s Vodka.
Officers from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council test purchased two bottles of the drink and seized a further bottle from the store on 28 August 2014.
Magistrates heard that officers visited a second shop managed by Mr Arockyanathan on 26 September 2014. Somerset Road Convenience Store was inspected by Trading Standards and the International Federation of Spirit Producers who seized a further three bottles labelled as Glen’s Vodka.
Tests by the public analyst found the liquid to be 34.1 per cent ABV despite the label indicating 37.5 per cent ABV, and could not be legally sold as vodka.
Mr Arockyanathan, of Wade Avenue, Stockton, pleaded guilty to four offences under the Food Safety Act 1990 and one offence under the Trade Marks Act 1994.
In mitigation, he said he had bought the bottles in good faith and thought they were authentic. He said he bought the bottles from another trader in the car park of a wholesaler. He was told that the other trader was going out of business and wanted to sell the stock, which he was unable to return to the wholesaler. He was of previous good character and worked to tight profit margins. Since these offences, he has ensured that he only buys from reputable, recognised dealers. He fully co-operated with Trading Standards and apologised for his lapse of judgement.
He was fined a total of £514 with costs of £1,500 and a victim surcharge of £51.00. The Court also ordered that the goods seized should be forfeited to the Council and destroyed.
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, said: “Counterfeit alcohol can be extremely dangerous as the contents of the bottles are often unknown - anyone who sells it is putting their customers and business at great risk and we will l always investigate reports of counterfeit goods.
“These fines are a firm reminder for licensees to purchase their stock from a reputable source and ensure their goods are genuine.”
Anyone with concerns about counterfeit products should contact Trading Standards on 01642 526560.