Alcohol Smuggling

News and statistics about the illegal alcohol trade. Smuggling of alcohol to evade taxes, modern day bootlegging, and data about counterfeit alcohol and sprits is collected from security agencies, criminal justice programs and other public sources.

Wine industry experts estimate that up to 20 percent of all wine bottles sold worldwide are counterfeits. Previously, it was reported back in 2010 that 5 percent of wine bottles sold were fake.

In court documents rleased in the United Kingdom, it was reported that wine connoissuers in Britain paid up to $11,148 (£7,000) for fake bottles of vintage French wine.

Source:  Henry Samuel, “Fifth of wine sold worldwide is ‘fake’,” Telegraph, November 1, 2013.

Up to 11 percent of all wine sales in the United Kingdom are estimated to have been sold without the proper taxes and duties being paid. The illicit sales causes losses to the government of up to $1.11 Billion (£700 Million), according to HM Revenue and Customs.

Security intelligence states that smugglers divert wine bottles that were destined for sale in other European Union countries where the taxes are lower.

A bottle of wine can be sold for over one British Pound cheaper when taxes are not included.

Source:  “Government loses £700m of tax due to wine smuggling,” Daily Mirror, October 12, 2013.

A survey conducted by accounting company PwC found that 18 percent of consumers in Britain admitted to purchasing counterfeit alcohol. 16 percent reported purchasing counterfeit drugs such as Viagra and weight-loss pills. And 13 percent admitted to buying counterfeit cigarettes.

British consumers between the ages of 18 to 34 bought the most counterfeits, with 60 percent saying that they bought pirated movies and music and 55 percent have bought replica clothing.

Source:  Rebecca Smithers, “Surge in purchases of counterfeit goods,” Guardian, October 1, 2013.


An independent research organization in Romania released a study that claimed $24 Billion (€18 Billion) in government revenue was lost due to tax evasion activities. The amount lost is equal to 13.8 percent of the country’s GDP.  In terms of percentages, the amount lost in 2012 was slightly lower than the record high of 15 percent in 2011.

Evading cigarette taxes accounted for $388 Million (€291 Million) in losses. Cigarette smuggling accounted for 13.3 percent of the overall tobacco market in Romania.

Evading alcohol taxes accounted for $257 Million (€193 Million) in losses. Alcohol smuggling accounted for 45.7 percent of the overall alcohol market in Romania.

Source:  “Tax evasion in Romania stood at 13.8 percent of GDP last year,”, September 16, 2013.

Between January and July 2013, authorities in Ireland seized 840 liters of counterfeit alcohol across the country.

Officials state that most of the organized crime groups involved in the production of counterfeit alcohol also are invovled in cigarette smuggling.

Source:  “‘Unscrupulous pub owners’ selling dangerous counterfeit alcohol,” Journal, August 6, 2013.

The smuggling and sales of counterfeit goods in 7 major industries in India leads to a tax loss of $4.5 Billion (261 Billion Indian Rupees) to the government, according to a study by Ficci Cascade (Committee Against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Activities Destroying the Economy).

The seven industries that were covered in the study included counterfeit auto parts, counterfeit tobacco and alcohol, and fake electronics.

Source:  “Smuggling, tax evasion cost `26k cr,” Statesman, June 5, 2013.

Around 25 percent of all alcohol consumed in Europe is estimated to have been sold on the informal market. This includes alcohol sold on the black market without the payment of taxes, counterfeit alcohol, and home-brewed alcohol.

Source:  Marjana Martinic, “Europe’s accidental promotion of black-market alcohol,” EurActiv, May 17, 2013.

Experts in China estimate that up to 70 percent of Chateau Lafite Rothschild Red Wine sold in China are counterfeit bottles.

The wine is considered to be one of the world’s most expensive wine, and is very popular in China. 50,000 bottles are imported in to the country each year.

In a single raid, police found 10,000 fake bottles of wine with the Chateau Lafite label in a deserted house guarded by dogs.

(See all China crime statistics.)

Source:  “‘Fine wine’ hoard highlights China’s problem with fakes,” BBC News, November 9, 2012.

In 2011, sales of counterfeit alcohol in Russia makes up between 23 to 37 percent of all alcohol sales in the country, according to federal statistics.

305,000 liters of counterfeit and bootleg alcohol was seized in Russia in 2011, and around 12,000 people died during the year due to consuming fake alcohol.

Fake vodka sales in Russia is estimated to be worth $3.3 Billion.

Source:  IANS/RIA Novosti, “30,000 bottles of fake vodka seized in Russia,” New York Daily News, June 27, 2012.

The market in counterfeit goods in Colombia is estimated to be worth between $4 Billion to $5 Billion a year.

Up to 12 million pairs of counterfeit or fake shoes from China enter Colombia each year.

One out of ever two bottles of alcohol sold in the Northern Antioquia province was counterfeit.

Source:  Hannah Stone, “Colombia Sees Flood of Pirated Chinese Shoes,” Insight, April 17, 2012.