Jailed smuggler ordered to pay £300k

RICHARD BATSON A Norfolk man jailed as part of a multi-million pound cigarette smuggling gang faces another four years in prison unless he can pay back £349,394 worth of duty.

RICHARD BATSON

A Norfolk man jailed as part of a multi-million pound cigarette smuggling gang faces another four years in prison unless he can pay back £349,394 worth of duty.

Company director David John Burrows, 47, from Skeyton Road, North Walsham was given a four-year four-month sentence in November 2005 after admitting four counts of conspiring to evade excise duty.

He was part of a case which involved the seizure of 60m cigarettes, £476,000 in cash and the prosecution of 32 people in the UK and abroad. The customs probe also shut down a planned counterfeit cigarette factory before it became operational and led to the dismantling of a major criminal organisation.

Now HM Revenue and Customs have followed up the criminal case using relatively new powers for confiscation orders - which will see five members of the gang being ordered to pay back nearly £1m.

A senior customs official said the orders, made at Sheffield Crown Court, sent out a clear message to the underworld that such crimes did not pay, and that officials would be looking to return unpaid duty to the public purse - which lost an estimated £3bn a year through cigarette smuggling. It could mean the seizing of property such as homes and cars as well as any money in bank accounts.

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Nick Burriss, assistant chief investigation officer for HM Revenue & Customs said: “Our teams of investigators have achieved a fantastic result that sends a clear message to those who engage in this sort of crime - you will lose not only your freedom, but we will reclaim the proceeds of your criminal activity.

“The operation was extremely complex and also included the closure of a counterfeit cigarette factory before it became operational. If undetected this would have resulted in a loss to the Treasury of £3m every week. We are extremely pleased that we have successfully used the proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to return the profits of crime to the public purse.”

Customs officials also warned that smokers buying cheap cigarettes were also putting their health at risk, as they had up to 60pc more tar, three times as much arsenic and 133pc more carbon monoxide than authentic brands.

People are warned to be wary of unusual brands with labels not in English, low prices, and odd delivery hours, and asked to help stamp out smuggling by calling the confidential hotline number on 0800 59 5000 or email customs.confidential@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

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