Evading tax with prison hooch

Evading tax with prison hooch

Who would have thought that one of HM's prisons would be a tool for tax evasion?

Friday, 20 October 2023, 16:16


For most first world governments the sale of alcoholic drinks represents a cash cow that can be taxed for as long as people drink. The collection of such taxes is easy to monitor via an official licensing system and control of outlets. In circumstances where the volume is considerable, a whisky distillery for example, it is normal for an employee of the tax collection agency to be permanently on site.

So, who would have thought that one of HM's prisons would be a tool for tax evasion? It was recently discovered that prisoners at Britain's Wandsworth jail had developed a sophisticated production system for extracting alcohol to the tune of 2,000 litres annually. It is not suggested that a full-blown distillery was built and operated in the prison - that would have been impossible - but by blending certain easily-obtainable ingredients a passable 'hooch' was created. These ingredients, copied apparently from US prison experience, were a soft drink known as Mountain Dew (made by PepsiCo), orange juice and jelly babies.

It is not mentioned in the official papers what the resulting drink tasted like, but it seems remarkable that non-alcoholic ingredients can be used to produce something that the inmates could get drunk on, and which became a prison currency in the same way as cigarettes, mobile phone cards and drugs. Nevertheless, an Argentinian lady once gave me a recipe for making vodka in a bathtub, so it would appear that there are few limitations when it comes to slaking that thirst that needs something with a kick in it.

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