BUST: Constable Lucy Zama, left, Constable Steven Mchunu and Captain Geoff Ngcobo with the confiscated liquor on Wednesday. Picture: SA Police Service

Durban - Police have bust a Scottburgh vodka bootlegging syndicate, putting an end to an operation distributing the potentially dangerous counterfeit liquor in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

A couple and two men from the Eastern Cape were arrested on Wednesday for alleged mass manufacture, bottling and selling of illicit Smirnoff vodka spirits from their home.

Police spokesman, Colonel Vincent Mdunge, said members of the Scottburgh SAPS stopped a van at about 3am on Wednesday and found 86 boxes containing 750ml vodka bottles headed for the Eastern Cape.

Police constables Steven Mchunu and Lucy Zama were carrying out routine patrols in the Amandawe area when they noticed the van.

Mdunge said the officers were told by the two occupants of the vehicle that they were on their way to the Eastern Cape, but had lost their way.

Police made the discovery when they inspected the bakkie.

“Despite all the bottles of liquor appearing to be new and sealed, none of them was factory sealed,” he said.

Police established that the fake booze had been bought in Scottburgh. They escorted the men to the couple’s home in KwaCele where they pointed out the person to whom they had paid more than R30 000 for the liquor.

The money and 1 056 bottles of fake vodka were confiscated.

“A further two cartons of liquor were found in a wood and iron building on the premises. It was established that water was brought into the premises in 25-litre containers and mixed with concentrated alcohol in 210 litre drums to make a concoction resembling vodka.

“The concoction was then placed into 750ml bottles and the bottle cap and ring around the bottle neck were stuck with super glue to make it appear as if the drink was a genuine sealed bottle of Smirnoff Vodka,” said Mdunge.

A glue gun used to seal the packed boxes was found on the couple’s premises.

Mdunge said all four had been charged with contravening the Counterfeit Goods Act and for trading in liquor without a proper permit.

The accused are expected to appear at the Scottburgh Magistrate’s Court this week.

Mdunge said because the operation seemed well-established and because of the sheer volume of alcohol, police suspected they had been supplying liquor outlets in KwaZulu-Natal and surrounding provinces.

Police have not determined where the bottles, caps, boxes and the Smirnoff logo had been acquired.

The couple could possibly face further criminal charges.

Mdunge warned consumers not to buy or consume fake alcohol because it may not be safe.

“There is no way of knowing the alcohol content, the liquor has not passed the tests to meet the standards required by law and there is no way to know if the manufacturing and bottling was carried out in a hygienic and controlled environment. Always check that the cap is factory sealed to the ring fitted around the neck of the bottle and not stuck on,” Mdunge said.

Zumi Njongwe, Brandhouse portfolio manager for white spirits, including Smirnoff, said counterfeiting was a big problem in the alcohol industry. - Daily News