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Published:  23 July, 2008

HM Customs & Excise has refuted claims that its officials have been overzealous in seizing shipments and destroying goods due to paperwork flaws. An official told Harpers the value of goods destroyed as reported in the press had also been wildly exaggerated. One particular Sunday Times journalist qaudrupled the estimate given between phoning this office and printing the story,' alleged Robert Buxton, Customs' law enforcement spokesman. The vast majority of alcohol seized is from cross-border smugglers and not from legitimate businesses. If there is only a small mistake in the paperwork then the shipment will be detained, but once the mistake is rectified the shipment will be instantly released.' However, these words hold little comfort for Morgan Classic Wines (MCW) Limited, which saw well over 100,000' of wine destroyed, including a number of old Bordeaux First Growths. The goods were seized in January due to discrepancies in the Accompanying Administration Documentation provided by MCW's shippers. Customs & Excise wrote to MCW later that month, outlining the problems, namely incorrect documentation and no evidence of arrangements to pre-pay the UK duty. A lawyer for MCW said: It appears that by this stage the goods had already been destroyed.' John Morgan, director of MCW, said that Customs admitted it made a mistake after a six-month delay and has now agreed to pay compensation. Buxton said: In only two instances have goods been destroyed when they shouldn't have been.'