Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 20°C

min temp: 12°C

Search

Felixstowe link in smuggling operation

PUBLISHED: 16:00 06 November 2001 | UPDATED: 15:19 03 March 2010

THE Port of Felixstowe has been implicated in one of the biggest-ever smuggling operations involving cigarettes worth as much as £25 million.

A court has heard that most of the bootlegged tobacco was brought through Dover, however customs officers are alleging other container loads were also imported through Suffolk.

THE Port of Felixstowe has been implicated in one of the biggest-ever smuggling operations involving cigarettes worth as much as £25 million.

A court has heard that most of the bootlegged tobacco was brought through Dover, however customs officers are alleging other container loads were also imported through Suffolk.

It is believed some of the 22 consignments officers claim were brought into the country on illegal runs from Egypt came in via Felixstowe docks.

The accused, Raymond Featherstone, 53, is said to have set up a bogus fashion company as a front for bringing in the cigarettes.

Featherstone has denied being involved in smuggling tens of millions of cigarettes between October 1998, and May 1999, and evading millions of pounds in duty.

The case at Cambridge Crown Court was set to resume today with more of the defence case.

Featherstone, of The Hamlet, Chettisham, near Ely, is alleged to have set up a company called Questa Fashion as a front for the fraud – to import in textiles.

But the plot was uncovered by Customs and Excise officers at Thamesport – owned by same group which owns Felixstowe port – in Kent during a routine operation.

Two containers containing 19 million cigarettes – including popular brands such as Benson and Hedges, Rothmans and Regal – were intercepted in May 1999, which led to a thorough investigation of his company and the cargoes it has been transporting.

The prosecution claims that it is "sensible and logical" to believe that 22 other containers shipped by Featherstone from Egypt also held cigarettes.

Customs officers reckoned that each load which got through was worth £1 million duty evaded, and there had probably been as many as 24 or 25 loads.

The defendant handled shipment of the goods himself through his own firm Supreme Shipping and Forwarding UK, but the jury was told he was probably part of a larger organisation and was brought in because of his shipping expertise.

In interviews after his arrest, Featherstone maintained Questa Fashion was not his firm and he had been approached by two men to provide mailing addresses for container shipments.

He denied any knowledge of cigarette smuggling or a customs officer's claim he had invented a "cock and bull story" in a bid to cover his tracks.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Ipswich Star

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists