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Bootleggers jailed for smuggling smokes

PUBLISHED: 17:19 11 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:01 03 March 2010

Two smugglers who sneaked thousands of pounds worth of contraband cigarettes into Britain via Ipswich have been jailed their part in the scam.

Alan Sparks, the 47-year-old director of company A2B Transport Ltd, which occupied a warehouse in Northamptonshire, was sentenced to three years in prison by a judge at Basildon Crown Court for bringing three million smuggled smokes into the country.

Two smugglers who sneaked thousands of pounds worth of contraband cigarettes into Britain via Ipswich have been jailed their part in the scam.

Alan Sparks, the 47-year-old director of company A2B Transport Ltd, which occupied a warehouse in Northamptonshire, was sentenced to three years in prison by a judge at Basildon Crown Court for bringing three million smuggled smokes into the country.

Fellow smuggler Sean Boylan, 29, from Essex, was jailed for two-and-a-half years for his part in the black-market racket which brought cigarettes worth around £510,000 in unpaid excise duty into Suffolk.

Both had denied smuggling during a three-week trial in Basildon in October but the jury did not believe their story and convicted them.

The smuggled smokes were tracked by customs officers, operating under the codename "Wodges", from Ipswich's West Bank terminal (which had come from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge) to a Higham Ferrers warehouse registered in Sparks' company name in Northamptonshire.

Boylan was waiting at the warehouse to help unload the bootleg bounty (hidden inside a consignment of table-tops) and quickly transfer the contents of the delivery van into the depot.

Unemployed Roger Abrams, 27, of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, sat in a car outside the depot, keeping watch for fear a passing police car or motorist might pick up on their shady operation. He is due to be sentenced later this week after pleading guilty to the smuggling charge on the first day of his trial.

Customs officers raided the depot where Boylan had already started smashing up table-tops which concealed thousands of cigarettes inside. Each wooden panel was hollow and packed full of Superking cigarettes. Lead ingots weighted the wooden panels to prevent officials getting suspicious that the table-tops were too light.

Abrams and Boylan were arrested on the spot and customs investigators arrested Sparks at his home.

If successful, the smuggling scam would have swindled tax-payers of hundreds of thousands of pounds.


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