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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

GANG of men from Bolton have admitted being involved in the running of a multimillion pound booze smuggling operation.

GANG of men from Bolton have admitted being involved in the running of a multimillion pound booze smuggling operation.

Businessman Saleem Khan, aged 45, of Kilworth Drive, Lostock, pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court on Friday to import duty evasion fraud. He is the eighth member of the gang to plead guilty to playing a part in the huge fraud, after a longrunning investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officials.

It is believed Khan was a key player in the gang, which had a network of storage facilities across Bolton, as well as a distribution network with drivers and packers. The smuggling ring supplied large quantities of alcohol, mainly cans of beer and lager, to shops in Bolton.

Some of the alcohol was smuggled into the country and some was bought duty-free in the UK for sale abroad, then diverted back to the UK.

It is thought the gang’s duty evasion scam was worth up to £2 million.

This does not include the value of the drinks and the profits, which would have run into many more millions.

Legitimate businesses pay duty on alcoholic drinks sold in the UK depending on their alcohol content.

The men, who have already pleaded guilty to their involvement at earlier hearings, are: Mark Norris, aged 44, of Radbourne Grove, Lostock; Zulfkhar Hussain, aged 54, and Sharif Hussain, aged 23, both of Cross Street, Bolton; William Booth, aged 53, of Dunoon Drive, Astley Bridge; Richard Booth, aged 20, of Hill Cot Road, Astley Bridge; Kevan Ashcroft, aged 61, of Halliwell Road, Halliwell; and Walter Patton, aged 60, of Lorne Street, Farnworth.

Khan was arrested in April 2008, and the others in 2007 and 2008 after HMRC officials raided warehouses across Bolton.

They seized thousands of cans of lager, which were stacked to the rafters — in one case officials found 150 pallets of beer.

The warehouses raided were at Pilot Industrial Estate, Lostock Industrial Estate and Bolton and Sunnyside Business Centre.

Some of the men were arrested handling the goods, some after a surveillance operation and some were forensically linked to the smuggling ring by documents or fingerprints.

The men will return to court on Friday when a date will be set for their sentencing.:Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder

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