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Police to probe Customs fiasco.

Byline: By BRUCE WALKER

UP to 20 Customs officers are under investigation by police after their disastrous operation against LCB.

The profits from the scam - which the fraudsters called 'The Swerve' - were enormous.

Despite documents claiming they were heading abroad via ferry ports, the lorries full of duty-free vodka and whisky swerved off course and headed to Scotland.

Their loads were hidden, mainly at warehouses in Coatbridge, West Calder, Livingston, Wishaw, Bannockburn and Glasgow.

From there, plain white vans took the cheap drink to off-licences across the Central Belt.

But convictions linked to the massive operation were overturned after it emerged the key customs witness, Alf Allington - the managing director of LCB - lied under oath about his status as an informant.

His customs handlers had turned a blind eye as he helped the huge fraud proceed with an estimated loss of pounds 2billion in lost duty.

In the appeal of four men at the Court of Appeal in London last year, Customs admitted that they had intelligence that Allington himself was involved in committing frauds and was taking bribes.

Customs now admit that Allington should never have been called as a witness 'relied on by the prosecution' in the trial in February, 1998.

In the case against Singh and McAteer, Customs decided not to use Allington as a witness but to call an employee of his, Raymond Buckledee, instead.

But Allington did give evidence in several trials after February 1998 and was still appearing for the prosecution as late as 2000.

CAPTION(S):

Tarnished: Customs
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Article Details
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 10, 2005
Words:255
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