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Published:  23 July, 2008

The Wine & Spirit Association has announced that it is to work with Customs & Excise in finding better ways of differentiating between legitimate traders and fraudsters, and on understanding how the trade and HM Customs operate. Following the implementation by the Government of the recommendations of the Roques Report 2001, Customs tightened up on the excise holding and system of movement. This led to instances of serious disruption to members of the legitimate trade. WSA director Quentin Rappoport said: HMC&E has acknowledged that a constructive working relationship with the legitimate trade is an important element in assuring the Inland Revenue and in isolating the lawbreakers. Lack of "commercial awareness" by HMC&E frontline staff and a lack of understanding by some traders about the roles of HMC&E have been identified as potential obstacles to this process. We now want to eliminate these obstacles,' said Rappoport. The two organisations have held a workshop in Scotland and a seminar in Dover, with a view to understanding each other's roles and problems. The latter took place to develop ideas for fast-tracking legitimate traders through ports of entry and C&E has undertaken to consider ideas for further discussion with the trade. John Corbett-Milward, the WSA's head of technical and international affairs, said: These are still early days, but feedback from Customs officers and traders confirms that, so far, time on this project has been well spent. Where they exist, barriers to the understanding between HMC&E and the legitimate trade get in the way of catching the real enemy - the fraudster. We plan to review the pilot before rolling out "awareness training" to Customs officers and to the compliant trade,' added Corbett-Milward. Rappoport said: We are determined to help HMC&E to root out the fraudsters, but it must be done without unnecessary disruption to the trade. I am confident that these joint initiatives will be the first of various steps towards a valuable and constructive solution for all parties involved.'