Martlesham racketeer jailed

A MARTLESHAM racketeer is today serving three years in jail for his part in an audacious £12million smuggling plot.Graham Smith, of Deben Avenue, was among five men who attempted to steal nearly 85m cigarettes from under the noses of customs officers and divert them on to the black market.

A MARTLESHAM racketeer is today serving three years in jail for his part in an audacious £12million smuggling plot.

Graham Smith, of Deben Avenue, was among five men who attempted to steal nearly 85m cigarettes from under the noses of customs officers and divert them on to the black market.

The 46-year-old was part of a scam said to have been worth more than £11.8 million in evaded duty.

Smith and four confederates received prison sentences totalling 23-and-a-half years at Maidstone Crown Court after either being convicted, or pleading guilty to, their part in a fraud that evaded revenue on 84.6 million cigarettes.

Their payload was imported by HGV from a legitimate bonded warehouse in Holland into the UK, under duty suspension for re-export to Dubai and Togo.

While in the UK the containers were diverted from their legitimate route. The cigarettes were then unloaded and replaced with photocopying paper which was then exported to Dubai and Togo through Southampton container terminal.

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The court heard the gang was caught on January 22 last year when customs officers carrying out covert surveillance swooped after a container of cigarettes being taken from Dover to an industrial unit in Sevenoaks, Kent.

Hadley Gill, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) assistant chief investigation officer in the south said: “This smuggling ring was a well-organised and sophisticated one, designed to line the pockets of those involved. This was an audacious attempt to defraud the Exchequer of approximately £11.8 million in revenue.

“HMRC is committed to stamping out the illegal supply of cigarettes, which not only affects UK revenue but also disadvantages honest retailers whose businesses are jeopardised by such unfair competition. The sentences should be seen as a deterrent.”

The other men jailed were Peter Barnett, 59, of West Horsley, Surrey, who was sentenced to six years, James Amin, 34 of Monkton, Swindon, who was sentenced to five years and Mark Amin, 30, of the same address, who was sentenced to four-and-a-half years.

A fifth man, Nigel Percy-Davis, 61, of Little Chatfield, Wiltshire, was also given five years imprisonment.

N Has your business been affected by black marketers? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

A bonded warehouse is a place authorised by customs authorities for storage of goods on which payment of duties is deferred until the goods are removed.

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