Three Peterborough men who attempted to smuggle over 20 million illegal cigarettes worth hundreds of thousands of in lost duty and taxes hidden in window frames have been sentenced.
Rolandas Nastys, 48, Kawan Jalal, 28, and Alan Ahmed, 23, were arrested by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in July 2013, after two of the gang were caught red-handed unloading 633,600 cigarettes at a remote industrial unit in Fulney Drove, Spalding.
“This gang were involved in a major illicit cigarette smuggling operation. They wrongly assumed that they and their illegal goods were well hidden”Paul Barton
Inside the building investigators found the Jin Ling cigarettes, which had been concealed within a load of window frames.
Over a three year period 39 consignments each of approximately 660,000 illicit cigarettes were delivered to the industrial unit, which had been rented under a false name by Nastys.
After the cleverly concealed cigarettes had been removed from the window frames they were stored ready for loading into smaller vehicles to be distributed for sale to shops in Peterborough.
Two other suspects left the UK before trial and European Arrest Warrants have been issued for their arrest.
Nastys (also known as Rolanas Prerksas) (48) of Martinsbridge, Peterborough was sentenced to 16 months in jail suspended for 12 months and 180 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to fraudulent evasion of excise duty.
Jalal, of Beluga Close, Peterborough was given an identical sentence after also admitting fraudulent evasion of excise duty.
Ahmed, of Saxon Close, Dogsthorpe, Peterborough denied the same charge, but was found guilty after a trial. He was sentenced to eight months in prison suspended for 12 months and 180 hours of unpaid work.
Paul Barton, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “This gang were involved in a major illicit cigarette smuggling operation. They wrongly assumed that they and their illegal goods were well hidden; using a remote location and concealing the cigarettes within a load of window frames.
“This is criminal activity on a large scale that harms the livelihoods of honest Peterborough shopkeepers and is estimated to cost the UK economy over £2 billion a year that should be funding public services. Don’t let criminals profit – report it.”
“Anyone with information about the storage or sale of illegal tobacco in their area should contact the Customs hotline on 0800 59 5000.