Smugglers lose £1m of stock at the ports

Smugglers trying to sell more than £1m of cheap alcohol in the run-up to Christmas had their drinks seized before they could reach the black market.

More than 300,000 litres of beer, cider, wine and spirits were held at ports across the south of England in the last week of November alone, the UK Border Agency said yesterday.

Its regional director Carole Upshall said criminals were "trying to exploit the pressure on household finances by offering cheap booze in the lead-up to Christmas".

"It is perfectly legitimate to shop in Europe and bring back alcohol for yourself but anyone who smuggles alcohol is effectively stealing from the public purse and from law-abiding taxpayers," she said.

The smugglers would have avoided paying more than 900,000 in excise duty and VAT if they had succeeded.

The alcohol found at Dover, Poole and Tilbury will be turned into fertiliser.