Hyderabad, India – October 9,2017

Three people were arrested by the Telangana Prohibition and Excise Department’s State Task Force (STF) after seizing 325 bottles of spurious liquor. One of the accused was tasked with obtaining the counterfeit liquor bottles, labels and caps from Mumbai. The counterfeit packaging represented high end imported liquor brands including, The Glenlivent, Glenfiddich, Royal Salute, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Chivas Regal, Belvedere and other brands.

Once the counterfeit packing was delivered to Hyderbad, the group would use cheap domestic brands to refill the bottles. The domestic liquor brands used by the group of liquor counterfeiters included, Royal Stag, Imperial Blue, 100-Pipers, White Mischief Vodka and others. At a Press Briefing held by the Commissioner of The Prohibition and Excise Department, RV Chandravadan, the three arrested were identified as Mahesh Ambavi, B. Sharath and Srinivas. The Commissioner also noted that a fourth suspect is a fugitive and is being sought, he was identified as Harish Singh.

During the news briefing Commission Chandravadan explained the operation in its entirety. After all the fake liquor bottles and packaging was delivered from Mumbai, the defendants would Start refilling the bottles with liquor from the domestic brands. Their customer base would order over the phone and have the spurious liquor delivered to them at a cost that they believed was 30-40% off the retail price of the high end imported liquors.

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During the press conference The Commissioner had the defendant Mahesh Ambavi, demonstrate the entire process. Mr. Ambavi, took an empty counterfeit bottle, poured the domestic liquor into it, sealed the cap with a tax stamp and boxed it. The Commissioner took the opportunity to warn that liquor is a price controlled product with many costs, such as taxes and tariffs built into the price. When buying liquor only approved retailers should be considered. This is a classic example of the adage, BUYER BEWARE.

This story also highlights a widespread practice at bars, pubs, nightclubs and resorts where unscrupulous owners partake in the same type of fraudulent activity. Refilling Liquor Bottles in establishments that serve mixed drinks is a practice that comes up often.  Name brand, high priced liquor bottles will be displayed, yet, like the defendants did in this case, those liquor bottles will be filled with a lesser quality, cheaper liquor that is like the branded bottle’s label.

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