Cigarette men avoid jail
DAVID Harrison is today a free man after he unintentionally became involved in a cigarette smuggling case.Magistrates in Ipswich acquitted Mr Harrison after he had pleaded not guilty to a charge of fraudulent evasion of duty.
DAVID Harrison is today a free man after he unintentionally became involved in a cigarette smuggling case.
Magistrates in Ipswich acquitted Mr Harrison after he had pleaded not guilty to a charge of fraudulent evasion of duty.
More than 250,000 cigarettes, worth nearly £51,000 in duty, were found in the back of a van that Mr Harrison was sitting in.
However, magistrates were satisfied that he had nothing to do with this and did not know how, or why, the cigarettes were in the van.
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Two other men, Christopher Lewis and Andrew Harris, who had also been in the van, admitted fraudulent evasion of duty but were both spared jail.
Customs officers at Ipswich Docks uncovered a haul of 271,400 cigarettes, worth a duty value of £50,573.29, in the back of a white van at Cliff Quay in the early hours of August 1, 2003.
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The L&M cigarettes, a brand not available in Britain, had been loaded into the vehicle from a ship called the MV Sibnec that had sailed to Suffolk from Russia.
Subsequent enquiries from customs officers found £36,000 in cash on board the vessel and that money had been used as payment for the cigarettes.
Three men from Boston in Lincolnshire were arrested, interviewed and later charged with smuggling offences.
Lewis, 41, of Wheeler Close, and Harris, 36, of Arbella Road, both pleaded guilty to fraudulent evasion of duty.
They each received 80 hours community punishment and an 18-month community rehabilitation order.
Mr Harrison, 39, of Broadfield Lane, was cleared of having any involvement as he had only been in the van because he went for a ride.
Mr Harrison said: "I did not know what was happening until we got to the police station. Being present does not mean I knew what was going on.
"There is not one piece of evidence that shows I knew or had anything to do with it.
"I did not put any money into it and I did not know anything about it."
A customs spokesman said: "Working initially with local police officers, customs have not only seized the cigarettes but also a sum of money which we believe to be the payment for those cigarettes.
"It is a customs priority to make sure that, where possible, we deny criminals the profit from their illegal activity as well as seizing the illicit goods we find."
The £36,000 that was found on the MV Sibnec has been forfeited to the Crown under the Proceeds of Crime Act.