Suspended sentences for smugglers

TWO men were given suspended sentences for being part of a massive illegal operation to smuggle 39 million counterfeit cigarettes into Felixstowe port.

TWO men were given suspended sentences for being part of a massive illegal operation to smuggle 39 million counterfeit cigarettes into Felixstowe port.

David Bell and Kevin Leigh from Manchester pleaded guilty to one count of smuggling at Ipswich Crown Court and were given a suspended sentence of 12 months and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

Four containers carrying nearly 40million counterfeit cigarettes arrived at Felixstowe from China in the Autumn of 2005. HM Revenue and Customs officers foiled the scam after they followed two of the containers to a haulage yard in Manchester on November 2 2005. They arrived to find Bell, 44, and Leigh, 45, unloading the brown boxes from the vans they had hired to transport the contraband. They pleaded guilty to smuggling 10 million cigarettes and avoiding excise duties in the region of £1.5m.

Mitigating on behalf of the two men, Keith Harrison said: “They did not have any idea of the scale of the operation. Both these men succumbed to temptation as an easy way to make a small amount of money and they will pay heavily for that.”

Nine men were arrested in total, however five were released without charge and two were found not guilty at an earlier hearing.

Sentencing Bell and Leigh, Judge David Goodin said: “You come before me as foot soldiers with a limited degree of involvement at the bottom end of what was a fairly massive importation into this country of counterfeit and duty unpaid smuggled cigarettes.

Most Read

“You have both been guilty in the past of dishonesty and sentenced to custody. You will know better than anyone that criminals cannot be trusted and to say you had no idea of the scale of this is no excuse whatsoever. Once you become involved, you must take the consequences whatever they may be.”

HM Revenue and Customs spokesman Maddy Ratnett added: “Cigarette smuggling is a serious organised crime and often provides the funding for much larger criminal operations such as drug smuggling or people trafficking. For these reasons we need to flush out the criminals involved in this activity. Anyone with information on any illegal activities can call our 24-hour confidential hotline on 0800 595000.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter