A RUGBY man has been jailed for his part in a cigarette smuggling racket that’s cost the taxpayer £2.7 million.
Russell Baker, 49, of Townsend Lane, Long Lawford, was convicted of evading duty through Dover and was jailed for three years.
He was one of four sentenced last week for their involvement in smuggling nearly 14 million cigarettes.
John Cooper, assistant director of criminal investigation at HM Revenue & Customs, said: “These men are criminals who were motivated purely by greed.
“Not caring who they harmed, they were just out to make a huge profit at the expense of honest taxpayers. The revenue evaded could have been spent on public services like schools and hospitals for the benefit of the whole community.
“The sale of smuggled cigarettes is unregulated and these products are often sold to children and young people. Local shopkeepers also suffer when sales are lost to the criminals who peddle these harmful, and often counterfeit, illegal goods.”
Terence Crowhurst, 46, of, Uckfield, East Sussex, was sentenced to two years nine months after he was convicted of one offence of evading duty.
Former soldier Timothy Shaw, 50, of Motherwell, Scotland, admitted one offence of evading duty and was jailed for one year nine months.
But the key man in the gang, Douglas Allison of Stranraer, Scotland, is now on the run. He was convicted on Monday lasy week and granted bail until sentencing on Wednesday, but the court was told today after he failed to turn up that he has fled to Dubai. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Maidstone Crown Court was told that the gang smuggled the cigarettes in cargoes of ice cream, yoghurt and frozen pizza.
The court heard that Allison and Shaw were involved in smuggling 7,602,400 counterfeit cigarettes, evading almost £1.5 million in duty, at Newhaven Port in March 2010 and Allison, Baker and Crowhurst smuggled 6,342,460 cigarettes, evading over £1 million in duty, through Dover Docks in Kent in April 2010.
HMRC urges anyone with information about the illegal sale of cigarettes or tobacco to call 0800 59 5000.