Three cleared of cigarette smuggling

THREE men accused of being involved in smuggling more than two million cigarettes through Felixstowe in a container of lady's shoes have been cleared today.

THREE men accused of being involved in smuggling more than two million cigarettes through Felixstowe in a container of lady's shoes have been cleared today.

Trial judge Nicholas Beddard directed the jury at Ipswich Crown Court to return not guilty verdicts on the men because of the lack of evidence against them.

Before the court were Ian Fletcher, 35, Stuart Taylor, 43, and Mark Bryan 34, all of Leicestershire.

They denied being knowingly concerned in evading the payment of £400,000 duty payable on the cigarettes.

During the trial the court heard that 2.3 million cigarettes were smuggled into the country through Felixstowe disguised as boxes of ladies' shoes.

Customs officers were alerted after an employee at a warehouse in Dartford spotted the cigarettes as he was moving one of the boxes.

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The load was kept under surveillance as it was driven to an industrial estate in Leicestershire where the three defendants were arrested after unloading it.

After discharging the jury Judge Beddard granted the defendants each a £1,026 defence costs order to cover their travelling expenses.