From: This is Kent
A SITTINGBOURNE man has been jailed for three years after smuggling £16 million worth of illegal cigarettes into the UK as part of a gang.
Simon Coombes, 43, of College Drive, along with three others, arranged for consignments of cigarettes to be smuggled into the country, evading almost £3 million in duty.
Coombes pleaded guilty two pleas to smuggling in April 2012. He was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for each offence, to run consecutively.
His accomplices Ian Pugh Roberts, 52, of Dumpton Park Drive, Margate, Martin Walsh, 54, of Goughs Lane, Bracknell, Berkshire, and Sean McCormack, 47, of Staines Road, Wraysbury, Berkshire, were also found guilty of smuggling and were sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday to a total of nine years.
John Pointing, assistant director, criminal investigation for HMRC, said: “Simon Coombes and his cohorts plotted to smuggle huge quantities of illegal cigarettes into the UK. They cared little for the impact on small, honest businesses and had no qualms about flooding the UK with counterfeit and unregulated cigarettes.
“HMRC will not cease in its efforts to track down cigarette smugglers and stop their activities.”
The non-duty paid and counterfeit cigarettes were seized and destroyed.
Maidstone Crown Court heard on October 26 2010, custom officers discovered three million illicit cigarettes at the business premises of Goldline Haulage, in Margate, Kent. This was the business address of Goldline’s company director, Pugh-Roberts.
On December 14 2010, officers discovered five million cigarettes at a haulage firm in Sunbury, Surrey. This was the workplace of freight manager Walsh.
Walsh’s employers had no knowledge of the smuggling attempt, as Walsh falsified company records to cover his tracks.
The following day, December 15, eight million cigarettes were discovered by UK Border Force officers at the Port of Dover. Investigations by HMRC were able to link all three consignments to Simon Coombes.
Anyone with information about smuggling can contact our customs hotline on 0800 59 5000.”