A Barnsley man and a convicted tobacco fraudster have been jailed after seven million illegal cigarettes were discovered in a storage unit.
Russell King, 56, of The Green, Barnsley, and James Duffy, 48, of Dundalk, Ireland, illegally imported cigarettes into the UK worth £2,001,292 in unpaid duty, an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed.
The plot was masterminded by Duffy, who arranged the smuggling and delivery of the illegal goods. He was handed a six-year prison sentence earlier in the year for his role in another £2 million tobacco smuggling conspiracy.
His right-hand man King was caught red-handed with the cigarettes by HMRC officers at a storage unit on Sandybridge Lane Industrial Estate, Barnsley, in June 2016. Investigators discovered seven million non-UK duty paid cigarettes packed in cardboard boxes.
CCTV evidence showed King unloading the illegal goods from a lorry. Duffy was also present at the unit.
One week later King was observed overseeing the delivery of another 440,000 illegal cigarettes to a commercial property on Edmund Road in Sheffield.
Eden Noblett, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“This was a shameless attempt to put millions of illegal cigarettes on the streets and deprive the UK of money which should be used to fund our public services. They thought they could get away with it, but they were wrong. Duffy now has even more time behind bars to look forward to.
“HMRC will pursue criminals like King and Duffy who think it is acceptable to deal in illegal tobacco. The duty evaded was enough to pay the salaries for 91 South Yorkshire trainee firefighters for a year. I encourage anyone with information on this type of fraud to report it to HMRC online, or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Duffy was previously convicted of cheating the public revenue and sentenced to six years in prison at Leeds Crown Court on 11 May 2018. He admitted excise fraud at Leeds Crown Court on 24 October 2018 and was sentenced another 18 months in prison, to run consecutively to his other sentence, at the same court today, 18 January 2018.
King admitted excise fraud at Leeds Crown Court on 7 August 2018 and was sentenced to 28 months in prison at the same court today, 18 January 2019.
Proceedings are underway to recover the unpaid duty.
Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC online at https://www.gov.uk/report-an-unregistered-trader-or-business