An illegal distillery producing toxic vodka which is strong it could blind or even kill someone was uncovered by customs officers on a road – called Brewery Street.
The complex counterfeit booze operation was discovered on the aptly named street in Birmingham producing 96-per-cent proof vodka containing chemicals used to make anti-freeze.
The factory produced the deadly alcohol on a huge scale before distributing it to suppliers – who sold the “Arctic Ice” fake brand onto the public.
At least two people fell ill as a result of consuming the vodka that contained dangerous levels of methanol – which is also used in solvents and cleaning fluids.
HM Customs and Revenue officials who raided the city centre premises uncovered nearly 10,000 bottles of the booze and arrested three men on site.
On Thursday, the trio – who all admitted conspiracy to defraud – were sentenced for their part in the scam at Birmingham Crown Court.
Michael Woodlock, 52, from West Bromwich, West Mids., was jailed for 12 months for working as the factory’s book-keeper as well as maintaining machinery.
Delivery driver Gavin Berrow, 42, from Brierley Hill, West Mids., and warehouse worker Alex Rollason, 20, from Halesowen, West Mids., were both given four month sentences, suspended for 12 months.
Judge Melbourne Inman QC told them: “This was a relatively sophisticated operation.
“At the ironically named Brewery Street in Birmingham a warehouse premises had been rented and when the premises was raided what was found were large containers many of which contained water.
“But three of them contained 96 per cent pure alcohol.”
The raid on July 19, 2011 took place six days after five men were killed in a huge explosion at an illicit vodka distillery in Boston, Lincs.
Hal Watson, prosecuting, said those who raided the premises found a working still and the three defendants were arrested outside.
He said there were 2,572 filled 70cl bottles labelled as Arctic Ice Vodka – as well as 8,400 empty – and that the duty that would have been evaded on them was over #73,000.
Adrian Farley, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said after the case: “This was a substantial bottling, production and distribution plant.
“It was capable of making and distributing large quantities of counterfeit vodka throughout the country, with the potential of costing the UK taxpayer nearly #500,000 in lost revenue.
“The crime gang took no precautions to make the environment safe creating a high risk of an explosion and loss of life in their city centre unit.
“They were fully aware that the counterfeit vodka, which contained dangerous levels of methanol, was unfit to drink.
“They duped the public into buying what they believed were legitimate goods when in fact the counterfeit vodka could have killed them.”
A HMRC spokesperson added: “It was certainly ironic that it was uncovered on Brewery Street -it’s hardly the most secretive front for a large scale illegal vodka distillery.
“The raid came just a few days after the Boston explosion – if the same had happened in central Birmingham it could have been devastating.
“We are glad to have taken this operation out of action as the effects of drinking methanol can include nausea, blindness, kidney or liver problems, coma or death.”
The masterminds behind the operation are yet to be traced.