A COMPANY has failed in a bid to recover more than 200,000 nitrous oxide capsules which were seized by Border Force staff ten months ago.

Elevator Enterprises has "effectively ceased trading" since the capsules - said to be worth about £810,000 on the open market - were found in a shipping container at Southampton docks.

The company claimed the consignment was exempt from import regulations because the nitrous oxide was destined to be used as a food additive.

Southampton Magistrates' Court heard that the substance was used in the production of whipped cream.

But the appeal was dismissed by District Judge Peter Greenfield, who said the systems used by Elevator Enterprises meant the capsules could have been bought by people who wanted them for illegal purposes.

Amber Athill, representing Border Force, said nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, was a psychoactive substance which was the subject of an import ban.

Border Force officer John Waterhouse told the court it was used as a recreational drug and was popular at festivals.

Giving evidence in support of his appeal, Elevator Enterprises' sole director, Daniel Hennessy, described it as a catering firm which bought items and then sold them online.

But he was unable to provide the court with details of the company's profits and turnover.

Ms Athill claimed the company's website was "just a front" and told Mr Hennessy: "You have not provided any evidence that you bought these capsules to sell them legitimately."

But Mr Hennessy described the seizure as "totally illegal", adding: "The capsules were never purchased for human consumption.

"They were purchased for use in the catering industry. It's totally unfair to imply that I was going to contravene an Act when that was never the case."

Mr Hennessy said the business had been dormant since the shipment was seized by Border Force staff in June last year and Judge Greenfield agreed, saying the company had effectively ceased trading.

The capsules were bought from QuickWhip in Australia for £20,000 and imported via Hong Kong, the court heard.

Judge Greenfield acknowledged that nitrous oxide was used lawfully by several professions but said Mr Hennessy's knowledge of his own business "seemed a bit thin" and his evidence "appeared implausible at times".

Rejecting the company's appeal he ordered it to pay £2,205 costs within 14 days.