Smuggler filled suitcases with a tonne of illicit tobacco

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A man who oversaw a plot to post suitcases containing more than a tonne of illicit tobacco to the UK from Spain has been jailed.

David Glenn Sinclair, 52, was investigated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) after workers at a delivery firm depot in Dewsbury became suspicious of packages bound for his home on Wawne Lodge.

The hunch led to the unravelling of a fraud involving 1,025 kilos of illicit hand-rolling tobacco – worth £157,971 in unpaid duty.

Anne-Marie Gordon, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Sinclair’s aim was simple: to line his pockets at the expense of the taxpayer. But this was an unsophisticated fraud destined to fail and it was only a matter of time before he was caught.

“Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clamp down on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the taxpayer around £2 billion a year and hurts legitimate retailers.”

The scam was brought to an end when more than 87 kilos of non-duty paid hand-rolling tobacco were discovered in three shrink-wrapped suitcases at the depot in June last year.

Sinclair, from Hull, was arrested and, during a search of his home, investigators found £4,000 and €7,000 in cash stuffed inside the pockets of two coats hanging in a wardrobe.

He said he was unaware the suitcases were packed with tobacco, believing them to contain the personal effects of an unnamed individual due to relocate to the UK from Spain.

Enquiries with the courier revealed Sinclair, a regular traveller to Spain, had accepted eight similar deliveries with a total weight of 938 kilos over the previous four months.

Sinclair admitted the fraudulent evasion of excise duty at Leeds Crown Court on 13 October 2016, and was sentenced to two years in prison by Recorder Nigel Sangster QC at the same court today, October 20 2016.

His assets are to be made the subject of confiscation action under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.