Customs smash tobacco factory

REVENUE and Customs investigators in Ipswich were celebrating today after three men were jailed for their part in the illegal production of hand rolling tobacco.

REVENUE and Customs investigators in Ipswich were celebrating today after three men were jailed for their part in the illegal production of hand rolling tobacco.

The trio were sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court after a covert operation uncovered a tobacco production factory.

Raymond Blackburn, 42, of Tintagel Drive, Stanmore was jailed for three years, Michael James, 50, from Rockingham Avenue, Hornchurch, was sentenced to two years imprisonment, and Barry Chuter, 48, of York Way in Whetstone, was jailed for 12 months.

Stephen Warr, 44, of Kingston Avenue East, Horsley, and Eric Cuerton, 50, of Elsenham Road, Grimsby, have also been convicted and will be sentenced at a later date.


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John Kaye, Revenue and Customs' head of Criminal Investigation (East), said: “This is an excellent result for all honest traders who have to compete against criminal gangs.

“The activity of these gangs undermines businesses whose trade is damaged by those undercutting them through evading tax.

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“Illegal tobacco products are especially dangerous as there is no regulation in the use of chemicals needed to manufacture the goods.”

The plot was foiled after an undercover surveillance operation by officers caught the gang on August 10, 2006.

Officers raided premises near Stevenage and disturbed four men wearing safety face masks, busy in a fully-operational illegal tobacco factory.

The criminal enterprise was manufacturing hand rolling tobacco for the black market, complete with counterfeit tobacco pouches and packaging.

The equipment was capable of processing two tonnes of raw tobacco an hour. The total amount of unpaid duty on the tobacco is estimated at £452,000.

All the defendants were charged with conspiracy to defraud duty payable on tobacco products imposed by the Tobacco Products Duty Act 1979.

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