BUSINESSMAN Philip Berriman will relaunch his floating off-licence on Monday.

Mr Berriman, 46, who recently had £150,000 of alcohol and cigarettes detained by Customs officials, is setting up his floating shop 13 to 14 miles off Hartlepool.

Mr Berriman, of Norton, Stockton, says all he is doing is exploiting a loophole in the law, which he claims allows him to sell cheap alcohol and cigarettes, bought in other EU countries, in international waters.

His lawyers have told him he is doing nothing illegal as he pays EU duty when he buys the goods.

He said: "We are perfectly happy that we are not breaking the law. We don't believe our customers are breaking the law. We are totally confident."

But an HM Customs and Excise spokesman said: "People who have not travelled to another country may not purchase excise goods outside of UK territorial waters and return to the UK without paying excise duty for the full amount.

"Anyone who goes out to his boat and returns without paying duty is committing an offence. Anyone who knowingly assists someone to commit such an offence is guilty of an offence and may be prosecuted."

Mr Berriman is considering presenting customers, taken out by boat to his yacht, Cornish Maiden, on Monday, a free bottle of spirits.

He said customers would also be handed a letter setting out both his and the Customs' view on the legality of the situation.

In the first few days of operation Mr Berriman's off licence made £10,000

His shuttle, which took customers out to his previous yacht, Rich Harvest, was booked up for months, while about 30 fishing charter boats sailing out of Hartlepool were also fully booked.

Customs detained Mr Berriman's stock of alcohol and cigarettes when he put into Hartlepool last month.

Mr Berriman was later told he could have his stock back. Cornish Maiden is visiting Ostend today, to buy more supplies.