Gang member in fake vodka scam flees UK
A Polish man at the centre of a counterfeit vodka racket fled to his home country before he could be jailed.
Wojciech Jan Herbst was a member of a gang which produced a huge number of bottles of vodka unfit for human consumption on an isolated farm.
The 55-year-old, of Gdansk, was given a two-year prison sentence in his absence at Hull Crown Court yesterday.
He is believed to have fled to his homeland and a European arrest warrant will be issued.
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Simon De Kayne, of HM Revenue and Customs, said: "This was a substantial production, bottling and distribution plant.
"His gang would have known they were putting this highly toxic product into a bottle for human consumption.
"However, they were only interested in lining their pockets.
"The revenue loss to public finances was £1.5 million."
Customs officials and police raided Moscow Farm, Great Dalby, in September 2009.
They seized 9,000 bottles of fake vodka labelled as Glen's, a reputable brand.
The alcohol contained high levels of methanol, which can cause sickness and, in extreme cases, blindness.
Herbst was found guilty of conspiracy to cheat the revenue, in November.
He was described as the group's chemist and treated the coloured methylated spirit the gang was passing off as vodka to make it clear.
Evidence heard during the men's trials showed at least 65,000 bottles were sold to unwitting independent shops in 2008 and 2009.
Ringleader Kevin Eddishaw (54), of Handford Court, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
John Mark Humphreys (46), of Main Street, Upton, Nottinghamshire, was convicted and sentenced to seven years.
James Fyfe (51), of Furlong Avenue, Arnold, Nottingham, was jailed for 16 months; Mark Timothy Gyles (48), of Belleville Drive, Nottingham, to 12 months in prison, suspended for a year; and printer Michael James Matthews (56), of Stanley Grove, Weston-super-Mare, to 18 months.