Customs search for ‘dodgy wine’ sellers after Brick Lane curry house raids
Restaurants along the Brick Lane ‘Curry Mile’ in London’s East End have been caught up in raids by police, trading standards and customs officers on the look out for ‘dodgy’ wine.
The cheap wine has been imported from Italy and sold to restaurants at around �2 a bottle.
It was being used as ‘promotions’ given free with meals to entice diners off the street, one restaurant boss revealed.
Officers took away stocks of wine in the operation at two Clifton restaurants, one in Whitechapel Road near Brick Lane and the other near Canary Wharf, as well as Clifton’s supermarket in Westferry Road. The fourth premises raided was Shampan’s restaurant in Brick Lane.
“Inquiries are ongoing,” said a police spokeswoman. “We can confirm that officers went into the four premises and wine was taken away.”
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Sharaq Shaque, owner of the Clifton chain, said his managers bought one pallet of the dodgy wine last summer.
“We were under pressure because other restaurants were giving the wine away free with meals,” he told the East London Advertiser.
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“It goes on all the time in Brick Lane and we have to do the same or the diners go elsewhere.
“We weren’t selling it, just giving it free with meals, but didn’t know that duty hadn’t been paid on it.”
Restaurant owners along Brick Lane held a meeting of their trade association a day after the raids and issued a warning letter to members about the dodgy wine and agreed not to use it to compete for customers.
“I’m in favour of stopping this illegal wine trade,” Mr Shaque added. “I have co-operated with Customs & Excise and given them the receipt for the wine and name of the distributor.”
The raids were a joint operation with HM Customs & Excise and Tower Hamlets council’s trading standards officers on March 21.
A council statement said: “We take trading standards issues seriously and have a number of ongoing investigations taking place.”
Investigators are now trying to trace the distributors who sold the imported wine.