A UK businessman has been fined GBP6,000 for bottling "tap water" and selling it as Blenheim Palace mineral water.

Ralph Searl had been supplying companies with 19-litre bottles of water from his own natural spring at his farm in Carmarthenshire.

However, when Searl had more orders than he could supply, his company Cool Water Enterprises took on a contract with Blenheim Palace to sell their water under the estate's own label.

Searl's company then began duplicating the labels and putting them on plastic bottles filled with tap water.

Trading standards became involved when, in 2007, there were complaints from customers about the taste of the water.

Tests showed the water was not from the Blenheim Palace estate but had "characteristics similar" to the water at the spring at Searle's own in Wales and to the mains tap water at his factory.

Searl, 57, admitted charges under the trades description act and was ordered to pay costs of GBP65,000 by Cardiff Crown Court yesterday (26 January).

Blaenau Gwent Council Trading Standards said it was "pleased" that its investigation into the allegations provided the evidence for a successful prosecution.

Blenheim Palace said its bottled water is "only ever bottled" at the estate and that it took "aggressive" action to ensure Searl and his company were brought to justice.

"We will always fight to protect our mineral water so that our customers may always have confidence in what they are buying and drinking," a spokesperson for Blenheim Palace said. "To be clear, only people who bought 19 litre plastic bottles from Cool Clear Water at the start of 2007 may have received this counterfeit water. This is a very small group of people."