The Excise Department on Friday busted an illegal liquor blending unit operating from a house in a middle class residential colony at Menemkulam near the Technopark campus here.

Excise enforcers confiscated 1,800 litres of contraband spirit, hundreds of empty Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) bottles, a bottling machine, fake labels of popular liquor products, scores of bottles of imported essences and permitted food colours to impart flavour and colour of brandy and rum to the otherwise bland molasses spirit.

They also seized forged security stickers carrying the copied signature of the Excise Commissioner and holograph emblems of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC).

Excise enforcers arrested Shibu, who was living in the house along with his family, and impounded two cars parked inside the garage. Excise Inspector T. Ani Kumar said Shibu and his associates bought spirit smuggled into the district from distilleries in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra and converted the stuff into fake IMFL products for sale in the district's coastal areas. They fabricated popular and cheap IMFL brands such as Old Port rum and Top Up brandy.

He said the suspects made four litres of fake IMFL from one litre of 98 per cent proof spirit. The stuff was refilled in empty liquor bottles collected by rag pickers from the backyards of bar-hotels, garbage bins, drains and side walks. The fake liquor was retailed at selling points in the coastal area at Rs.200 a bottle, nearly Rs.25 less than the KSBC's cheapest liquor brand. The retailers sold 100 ml of the fake IMFL for less than Rs.50.

The case came to light when Mr. Ani's team arrested one Mukesh with 18 litres of fake IMFL at Murukumpuzha. The Excise team also closed several fake liquor selling points in Kadinamkulam, Anchuthengu and Chirayankeezhu last week.

The Excise department said it was investigating Shibu's business links and also the source of the illicit spirit. The accused was produced before the court on the charge of violating the Abkari Act and remanded in judicial custody for 15 days.