Gang members jailed for part in £1m cigarette smuggling
GANG members from Uxbridge, Ealing and Harrow who attempted to smuggle cigarettes hidden in pallets of floor underlay to evade £1million in duty have been jailed.
A total of six men – four from London and two from Lancashire – were caught red-handed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers at a storage facility in Darwen, Lancashire, with more than 3.7 million illegal Richmond, L&M and Brass cigarettes.
In total the gang members were sentenced to 10 years in prison when they appeared at Preston Crown Court on Thursday September 27.
Lukas Adasiewicz, 32, of Abbey Close, in Pinner, pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty and was jailed for 22 months.
Lukasz Zwierz, 31, of Court Road, in Uxbridge, and Batosz Duzak, 29, of Hodder Drive, Perivale, Ealing, both pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty and were each sentenced to 20 months.
Ellis Varey, 26, of Ribble Avenue, Darwen, was found guilty after trial of the fraudulent evasion of excise duty and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
Pawel Szymanski, 33, of Cannhall Road, in Stratford, east London, was sentenced to 22 months after pleading guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty and Chetan Mawji, 36, of Chadbury Close, Bolton, was sentenced to six months after he admitted the same charge.
HMRC investigators found Adasiewicz, Zwierz and Szymanski loading laundry bags stuffed with cigarettes into a hire van at a Premier Mill industrial unit, in Begonia Street, Darwen, on January 16 this year.
Varey and Duzak were found at the back of the unit removing boxes of cigarettes hidden in pallets of floor underlay and putting them into more laundry bags.
Mawji had been seen earlier driving the hire van and was arrested shortly after in a superstore car park.
Tony Capon, assistant director of the fraud investigation service at HMRC, said: “This was a blatant attempt to smuggle millions of cigarettes into the UK.
“This gang thought they were being clever by hiding illicit tobacco within flooring packs, but our investigators were one step ahead.
“We are determined to create a level playing for businesses who honestly pay their taxes.
“I urge anyone with information about the trade in smuggled or counterfeit tobacco to contact us online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
(Left to rght) Batosz Duzak, Lukasz Zwierz and Lukas Adasiewicz have all been jailed; (below left) some of the cigarettes