A Northern Ireland bar owner has been fined £6,000 for selling counterfeit vodka after pleading guilty at Downpatrick Magistrates' Court.
In a case brought by the Trading Standards Service (TSS) of the Department for the Economy, Mr Patrick Robert Maginn (55) of Bryansford Avenue, Newcastle, trading as Quinn’s Bar and Off Sales, 62-64 Main Street, Newcastle, Co. Down, pleaded guilty to three charges under Section 92 of Trade Marks Act 1994.
The court also granted a forfeiture order in relation to the bottles of vodka seized by Trading Standards.
The investigation arose following an allegation that Quinn’s Bar and Off Sales, Newcastle was selling fake Smirnoff vodka on its premises.
On December, 18, 2014 Trading Standards Officers carried out a test purchase of a one litre bottle of Smirnoff Red No 21 from Quinn’s Off Sales which was immediately confirmed as counterfeit by a Diageo representative.
Officers then seized five bottles of Smirnoff Red No 21 that were also fake. Genuine Smirnoff product was mixed with the counterfeit product that was on display and offered for sale.
Officers then carried out an inspection of the adjoining bar premises.
Twenty-four 1.5 litre bottles of Smirnoff Red No 21 were identified as being counterfeit from the optics of the upstairs and downstairs bar areas.
An inspection by the Diageo representative revealed that all but one of the bottles had fake labels. A field test of the liquid established that none of the bottles contained genuine Smirnoff product.
All counterfeit products were seized by TSS officers. No genuine Smirnoff product was identified by officers carrying out the inspection of the bar areas.
Samples of the fake vodka were examined by the Public Analyst and found to have an alcohol content of 32.7%. The minimum alcoholic strength for a liquid described as Vodka is 37.5%. The analyst further confirmed that the sample liquid was not Smirnoff.
Alison Gilchrist, enforcement officer for the Trading Standards Service said: “This is a very serious offence and the fine imposed by the court reflects its severity.
"Mr Maginn potentially put consumers at serious risk to boost his profit margins. He was knowingly selling this product in a very popular high street location in a popular seaside town in Northern Ireland and showed a blatant disregard for his customers.
“Mr Maginn has given little thought to the consequences of his actions. It is lucky that, on this occasion, nothing of a harmful nature was found in the fake vodka being sold at his premises.
"However, Mr Maginn could not have known under what conditions this alcohol was made when he sold it for consumption. We are well aware of the dangers that fake alcoholic drinks pose to those that consume them.
“Counterfeiting harms legitimate business and threatens jobs.
"The Trading Standards Service will continue to investigate sellers of counterfeit goods and we will not hesitate to take enforcement action against any trader found to be selling fakes. We would remind anyone involved in this type of activity that the courts can impose penalties of up to £5,000 or six months in prison per offence if trademarks or copyrights are infringed.”
Anyone who believes they have been sold counterfeit goods should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 or visit www.nidirect.gov.uk or via the Northern Ireland Trading Standards Service Facebook page.