Jailed duo must pay back £700,000

TWO racketeers jailed for a multi-million pound money-laundering and cigarette smuggling scam today have to pay back a total of £700,000.An intelligence-led operation by Ipswich-based HM Customs officers ended with Shane Valaitis being jailed for three and half years for money-laundering.

TWO racketeers jailed for a multi-million pound money-laundering and cigarette smuggling scam today have to pay back a total of £700,000.

An intelligence-led operation by Ipswich-based HM Customs officers ended with Shane Valaitis being jailed for three and half years for money-laundering.

His accomplice Paul Ellingham was given a prison term of 18 months for the same offence and two and a half years for trying to smuggle around six million cigarettes into the country through Felixstowe. The sentences run concurrently.

Now Old Bailey judge His Honour Justice Richard Field has issued a confiscation order of £571,789.62 against Valaitis, who is said to have laundered a total of £5.8m. He must pay the full amount within 12 months or face another two years being added to his prison term.

Meanwhile Ellingham has also been given a confiscation order. His amounts to £129,756 which he must also pay within 12 months. If he refuses he will get a further 18-month jail sentence for defaulting. Ellingham is said to have had been responsible for laundering £1,120,850.01 in his part of the scam.

During the confiscation hearing Valaitis' defence argued he would have to sell off his home, two vehicles and his caravan. It was said his wife was entitled to 60 per cent of their assets. However Justice Field ruled Mrs Valaitis was only entitled to a 50 per cent interest in those assets.

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Chris Webb, HM Customs Ipswich-based senior investigation officer and head of the region's financial investigation team, was pleased with the judge's ruling.

He said: "We are delighted with the outcome of this investigation. The Proceeds of Crime Act is beginning to bite. This sends a clear message that in future criminals will not be allowed to benefit financially from their illegal activities and we will hit them where it hurts most."

At his sentencing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in November last year, Ellingham, 36, of Highfield Road Chelmsford was described as one of the main organisers in relation to the cigarette smuggling plot.

Valaitis, 36, of Watlington Road, Old Harlow, was said to be a leading player in the money-laundering plot. Both were caught after Ellingham emerged from Barclay's Bank in High Street Bishop's Stortford on March 12 carrying the equivalent of £625,000 in euros.

The pair were convicted at St Albans Crown Court in October last year.

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