A SOUTHAMPTON shop could have its licence suspended after illegal alcohol was seized.

Bosses at Commercial Express will face city council licensing chiefs tomorrow after almost 200 of bottles of vodka were found to have counterfeit duty stickers.

Police and Trading Standards believe that could mean they were originally smuggled into the UK by criminal gangs.

Trading Standards officers and police swooped on the shop in December to carry out an inspection.

Daily Echo:

They seized 178 bottles of Smirnoff Red Vodka, Russian Standard, Metropolis Vodka and Strawberry Smirnoff Vodka.

Many of the bottles had counterfeit duty stickers on the back, which may have been put there by gangs in order to make them appear legal.

Staff at the shop in Commercial Road said they had bought some of the bottles from a man who delivered them by car on a monthly basis, while others had been bought from a family friend who said they were originally intended for a wedding.

When questioned, shop owner Gursamraj Khaira told Trading Standards some of the alcohol had been delivered by a man called Tom, who made monthly drop-offs although he did not have contact details for him.

Another sixty bottles had been bought from a family friend who told them he had originally bought them for a wedding.

Although the shop's owners have admitted two cautions for failing to identify the suppliers of the alcohol, Trading Standards are calling on city councillors to suspend their licence to sell alcohol for three months.

They also want the owners to keep complete records for any alcohol bought for sale in the shop.

Hampshire Constabulary is backing Trading Standards, and also wants CCTV improvements and for a log and refusals book to be maintained.

Supporting the suspension, PC Cherry from the force's licensing team, said: “It concerns us considerably that the premises are selling various brands of vodka with counterfeit stamp duty labels applied to make them appear legal.

“There is insufficient traceability relating to the supply of this alcohol.”