Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

You Silly Plonkers

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

You Silly Plonkers

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jane Picken

Charity fund-raisers were left with a bitter taste in their mouths when plans for a charity booze cruise were blocked by Customs.

Rotary Club members planned to do a sponsored dash to get the first bottles of French wine Beaujolais Nouveau back to the North East and on restaurant tables in record time.

The first bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau are released once a year at one minute past midnight, on the third Thursday of November.

Three Rotarians had planned to travel 800 miles over to Macon in eastern France through the Channel Tunnel with one on a Harley-Davidson motorbike, one in a van and another in an American sports car.

They would then have raced back to the North East to get the wine on tables for that evening, by auctioning it to wine merchants and restaurateurs.

Gateshead Rotary Club president Peter Maughan came up with the idea to raise funds for a cancer unit at the town's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

But Customs officials told Mr Maughan the Rotarians would be breaking the law and could face prosecution if they did not make proper declarations.

Mr Maughan said: "I think it is crazy. We have been stopped by too much red tape.

"All we wanted was to have a fun event to raise potentially a large amount of money for charity to benefit people in Gateshead.

"Customs were not interested in helping us. I rang two offices for advice and their attitude was the same. We decided not to go ahead because it was quite scary. They said that if we didn't do things according to the rules we would be in trouble and if we did play according to the rules and got it wrong we could still be in trouble.

"I got in touch with Customs because I am a lawyer and wanted to make sure what we were doing was not illegal. I thought they would tell us how we could make sure we stayed on the right side of the law. I thought they would be helpful but instead they just put a blanket on our plans.

"Customs really need to improve their attitude and look at the regulations. There is a lot of smuggling into the UK. If you drink in any pub there are people coming in selling contraband because so many people are trying to make a living from it. …

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