Three jailed in Germany for huge beer smuggling operation into UK

Three jailed in Germany for huge beer smuggling operation into UK
Photo: DPA
For over a year, three men snuck beer into Britain while pretending to sell it in northern Bavaria. The problem? Nowhere on earth has as many breweries as northern Bavaria.

A court in Hof, Bavaria on Wednesday condemned the men to jail sentences ranging between two years, and three years and three months, broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk reports.

The smugglers' ruse was simple. In Britain tax on beer is 13 times as high as it is in Germany, so if they could pay German tax while selling the beer in Britain they stood to make a lot of money.

To do this they had around 80 trucks arrive at their shipping company headquarters in Bavaria each week, all loaded with foreign beer. On the company books these beverages went down as imports from France and a German tax rate was paid accordingly.

In truth though the lorries were simply circulating the same bottles of beer between the shipping company and a storage facility 80 kilometres down the road.

At the same time, they were buying beer in France, but the destination was not Germany, but the UK. Once they smuggled it, into Britain they sold it off on the black market for a tidy profit.

But German customs became suspicious in 2014 as they simply couldn't comprehend how 80 truck loads of foreign beer were being sold each week in northern Bavaria – as the judge pointed out during her ruling, there is no other place on earth that has such a concentration of breweries.

In December last year, the authorities finally moved in, raiding the shipping company. All three men have sat in jail ever since.

Through this deceit, the smugglers were able to avoid €23 million in tax, the court found. The men had acted with “a high level of criminal energy,” the judge said.

The eventual sentences went well beyond the punishment of a maximum two-year jail term called for by the prosecution.

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