Smuggling booze

By | Category: Travel rumblings

the Kazakhstanis were probably more sophisticated than this...

Buying duty-free is a time-honoured tradition for us Brits. The odd bottle of brandy or two would fit into luggage and some of us may have brought slightly more than the allowance. I’m sure my face would have been puce as I walked through customs if I had tried to return with large amounts of hooch though.

So I have a sneaking admiration for some anonymous duty-free “entrepreneurs” in Kazakhstan who, the BBC says, built a pipeline to transport the illicit booze out the country under the River Chu and into Kyrgyzstan. The Beeb doesn’t say how long the pipe is but the suspicion is that thousands of bottle equivalents of moonshine found its way across the border. How long had it been there? How much had travelled through it? As there is also an oil pipeline nearby, I hope the two weren’t confused. Or maybe people couldn’t tell the difference?

I’ve tasted some wine from that area and, quite honestly, some of it is not particularly smooth to the taste-buds. It’s not a question of the quality being better in Kazakhstan rather than Kyrgyzstan.It is due to the age-old problem that smuggling exists – taxation. Once it gets high, people will buy from elsewhere and try to find a way of taking it home. Look at how popular booze cruises were a while ago. We used to bring back cases of wine and spirits, all for personal use and parties. And you could do it legally.

Why didn’t this occur to the smugglers that lived on the Kent coastline a few centuries ago? Instead of taking a boat and running the gauntlet of the revenue cutters, why didn’t they build a tunnel under the English Channel? After all, smugglers used tunnels around Gravesend. They just needed to think bigger. Like smugglers in Kazakhstan.

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