SIX members of a gang that used high-tech equipment to turn out illegal vodka at the rate of 24 bottles a minute were jailed for more than 56 years yesterday.
The gang made more than 1.3 million litres of the vodka in a rat-infested warehouse in Hackney, east London, HM Revenue and Customs said.
In another warehouse in north London, the gang also produced 9.5 tonnes of counterfeit hand rolling tobacco at the rate of 100 pouches per minute.
Polish workers, brought to Britain solely to work in the warehouses, were housed in sub-standard on-site accommodation, enabling the gang to run a round the clock operation.
Customs said the packaging of the vodka and tobacco was so convincing the public would have been unaware that they were not buying the real thing.
The six were charged with Conspiracy to Cheat the Public Revenue of £16 million (€19.1m) in duty and VAT on the vodka and £800,000 on the tobacco.
They were jailed at Southwark Crown Court following what Customs said was a complex international investigation.
It said its investigators worked closely with European law enforcement agencies from the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Poland and Cyprus to bring the gang to justice, and confiscation proceedings have started.
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