'Frozen Fruit' Cigarette Smuggler Sentenced

Monday, 12 October 2009
A man from Northern Ireland was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment on Friday (9 October 2009) following a HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) criminal investigation into the seizure of nearly six million cigarettes at Dover Eastern Docks.

UK Border Agency (UKBA) officers discovered the haul, in a load purporting to be frozen apples, on a lorry disembarking a Calais ferry on Wednesday 27 August 2008.

The HGV driver, Ronan Gerald Hughes (30), pleaded guilty to evading revenue of around £927,000 at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday, where he was also sentenced.

Officers off-loaded 1188 boxes from the lorry's trailer unit. Only eight boxes contained frozen fruit, the rest were full of cigarettes. HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) criminal investigators took on the case last year, making further enquiries.

Malcolm Bragg, HMRC Assistant Director Criminal Investigation, said:

"Cigarette smugglers don't care about undercutting honest retailers and tobacconists. These criminals smuggle unlicensed and unregulated goods and only care about their profit. Anyone with information about illegal smuggling activities should call the Customs' Hotline on 0800 59 5000."

His Honour Judge MacDonald QC said:

"An offence of this kind is serious and is a theft from this country." He also referred to "This crime damaging the lives' of honest shop workers" who legitimately sell cigarettes.

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