THOUSANDS of litres of wine have been seized at Poole from smugglers whose plans to sell cheap booze before Christmas have been thwarted.

In the last week of November alone, the UK Border Agency seized more than 300,000 litres of beer, cider, wine and spirits worth more than £1 million at ports across the South.

The alcohol was seized because it was believed traders involved were attempting to avoid paying excise duty and VAT by selling it on the black market.

The Agency estimates that more than £900,000 in revenue would have been lost to the Treasury had the consignments not been stopped.

Among the loads was nearly 13,000 litres of Spanish wine – described as “car parts” – which arrived on a lorry at Poole on November 24.

Seven consignments including vodka, beer, cider and wine were seized at Dover and Italian wine discovered in five containers at Tilbury.

Criminal investigations are also continuing into 21,500 litres of whisky found in a lorry at Portsmouth.

“This level of alcohol seizure leads us to believe that criminals are trying to exploit the pressure on household finances by offering cheap booze in the lead-up to Christmas,” said Carole Upshall, UK Border Agency regional director for ports.

“It is perfectly legitimate to shop in Europe and bring back alcohol for yourself but anyone who smuggles alcohol is effectively stealing from the public purse and from law-abiding taxpayers.”

The alcohol will be turned into fertiliser, while the packaging will be recycled.

Bob Gaiger, HM Revenue and Customs regional spokesman, said: “Alcohol smuggling lines the pockets of criminals and deprives honest retailers of legitimate business.

“We estimate that alcohol smuggling costs the Treasury at least £1 billion a year – money that should be available to fund UK public services.”