Customs charge man in gun fight

A MAN awaiting trial after customs officers smashed an alleged cigarette smuggling scam in Suffolk has been injured in a gun battle which left two people dead.

A MAN awaiting trial after customs officers smashed an alleged cigarette smuggling scam in Suffolk has been injured in a gun battle which left two people dead.

It is believed that Colin Berry was injured during an exchange of fire during an argument over a business deal in the Afghan capital Kabul.

The shoot out happened at the Hotel Intercontinental where Berry was understood to be protecting a US national and his Afghan wife.

Berry is believed to have suffered minor injuries in the crossfire together with a US national who was sitting nearby during the incident on February 26.

The identity of the two Afghan men who were shot dead have not been released or a possible motive for the shooting.

Hotel Intercontinental is used by members of the foreign community in Kabul and came to international prominence when it was used by foreign correspondents reporting the war in Afghanistan. It is also used by Afghans who have returned to their country from the West.

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Thirty eight-year-old Berry, was due to appear before Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday charged with evading excise duty on cigarettes.

However Judge Ball QC who was due to hear the case was already involved in another trial which overran and Berry case was up just to be mentioned at an interim hearing.

A similar hearing has been scheduled for next Tuesday. A provisional date for Berry's trial has been set for March 24.

Berry's whereabouts or the exact nature of the injuries he sustained in the shootout, are currently unknown.

The charges followed a seven month undercover operation by customs investigators in December 2000 in which seven million cigarettes were smuggled through Felixstowe, Britain's largest container port.

The cigarettes had arrived from the Middle East on the vessel Maersk Toledo on November 30, 2000, in boxes of industrial wipes.

Berry, of Dale Close, Stanway, was arrested after an undercover surveillance operation, headed by customs in Ipswich, in which officers swooped on Deben Freight Ltd based at Anglia Airpack in Rendlesham.

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