Man in £7m port smuggling ring jailed

A 45 year-old man has been jailed for six and a half years for his part in an £7m excise fraud that saw contraband liquor smuggled through Felixstowe port.

A 45 year-old man has been jailed for six and a half years for his part in an £7m excise fraud that saw contraband liquor smuggled through Felixstowe port.

Antony William Watkins-Burton, a UK national, residing in Deinze, Belgium was extradited in order to stand trial at Bristol Crown Court where he was found guilty at the end of a three-week long trial on Wednesday.

Watkins-Burton was the main overseas principal in a criminal gang smuggling tax-free spirits into the UK for sale on the home market that cost UK taxpayers more than £7 million in lost revenue.

The UK-manufactured spirits were legitimately exported to a bonded store in Belgium where they were purchased tax-free by the gang using a company called Dealson Management Ltd as a cover.

The spirits, equal in quantity to 75 loads of 1540 cases of six 70cl bottles, were then returned to the UK through ports including Dover, Felixstowe and Hull using false documentation and sold on the home market without UK Excise tax being paid over a 7-month period between September, 1998, and February, 1999.

Customs Law Enforcement spokesman Bob Gaiger, said: "We are delighted with the successful conclusion of this case.

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"Watkins-Burton was an integral part of a criminal gang which undermined the honest trader and shopper.

"This case is an example of the effort and lengths criminals will go to in attempting to defraud the taxpayer.

"Our officers have put a lot of hard work into disbanding this criminal organisation and laying this highly complex case before the courts."

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