Newcastle newsagent's illicit vodka was 'potential killer'
A SHOPKEEPER who sold dangerous bootleg booze which could potentially have killed customers has been ordered to pay more than £5,000 in fines and court costs.
Kunaranam Kanesan was prosecuted after he was caught selling bottles of vodka which were riddled with deadly chemicals.
The alarm was raised after a Trading Standards officer purchased a bottle of the spirit from the 44-year-old's shop, Cross Heath News, in Liverpool Road, Newcastle.
The bottle was found to contain high levels of methanol, which is used in antifreeze and can cause blindness, coma and even death.
Kanesan later told investigators he had bought 12 bottles of Arctic Ice vodka from a 'white man in a white van', Stafford Magistrates Court heard yesterday.
Nicholas Cole, prosecuting for Staffordshire County Council, said Trading Standards officer Mark Wilson purchased a 70cl bottle of Arctic Ice for £8.99 on July 28 last year.
The bottle was analysed and found to contain 180 grams of methanol per 100 litres – 18 times the maximum permitted.
Mr Cole said: "He was immediately able to tell this was an illicit bottle as the duty stamp was of poor quality, the bottle cap was loose and there were some small black specks in the liquid which appeared thick and syrupy.
"There have been deaths reported in the Czech Republic from the sale of illicit spirits. This year some 19 people are reported to have died."
A further 10 bottles were confiscated the next day.
One was found to contain a chemical called t-butanol, which is rendered unfit for human consumption.
Kanesan told investigators he thought the vodka was genuine as it had a UK duty stamp on it. Kanesan, of Roberts Avenue, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to selling food not of the substance demanded by the purchaser, and being a food business operator who failed to comply with regulations.
Paul Kay, mitigating, said: "It was a busy time. He looked at the duty stamp only and formed the erroneous view that the vodka was genuine."
Kanesan, who has no previous convictions, was fined £1,600 and was ordered to pay £3,696 costs and a £15 victim surcharge – a total of £5,311.
Magistrates also decided to suspend his personal licence to sell alcohol for three months. However, Mr Kay immediately lodged an appeal and the bench decided to suspend the suspension, pending a Crown Court appeal.
County councillor Pat Corfield, cabinet member for culture and communities, said: "This is a reminder to retailers that they are responsible for the safety of products they sell."