Convictions quashed on appeal

SEVEN men convicted of being part of a £105 million bootlegging scam involving an Ipswich warehouse have had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal.

BY GEORGINA JAMES

georgina.james@eveningstar.co.uk

SEVEN men convicted of being part of a £105 million bootlegging scam involving an Ipswich warehouse have had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal.

The seven in court were convicted of evading £105m of tax in a massive illicit operation centred on the former Fort Patrick bonded warehouse in Ipswich, where alcohol, apparently destined for export, was sold duty free on the British market.

The premises on Ransomes Europark are now used by European Warehousing and Transport Ltd but no longer have anything to do with Fort Patrick.

London-based Customs and Excise officers are being blamed for the fiasco as it is alleged they kept vital information from defence lawyers and the court.

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The case, codenamed Operation Stockdale, involved the alleged evasion of excise duty on beer, wine and spirits kept at the Ipswich warehouse, some of which had come from London City Bond.

The seven people who appealed were Christopher Grant, Michael Singh Boparan, Malcolm Gell, Martin Challis, David Johnston, Alan Smith and Paul Jenkins. None of them were believed to be from Suffolk.

The scam was part of a £2 billion nationwide smuggling operation, which saw lorry loads of duty-free drink meant for foreign destinations, allegedly sold in the UK without duty being paid.

It is believed that the convictions of up to 100 other defendants could be overturned.

Customs and Excise said they decided not to oppose the appeals by the seven at the Court of Appeal following evidence in a linked case last year which revealed customs officers had failed to disclose information.

"In the Stockade case, the Crown did not accept that any of the material demonstrated that any of these defendants was innocent of the offences with which they had been charged," said a customs spokesman.

"Similar consideration will be given to other linked cases and some are still to be heard."

In 1999 The Evening Star reported on how two businessmen were jailed for a total of six years for allowing their legitimate companies to become part of a bootlegging scam that cost the public purse £100 million.

The pair were part of an illegal operation centred on the Fort Patrick bonded warehouse in Ipswich.

Alan Reece, boss of a Calais-based drink exporter, and miner's son and lay preacher Keith Hamby who ran a Yorkshire based shipping company helped rob the Revenue of £2.2 million.

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