A cigarette smuggling gang with links to Birmingham and abroad have been jailed after £105,240 in cash and duty free tobacco was found in wardrobes and cars.
Two men, from Acton and Birmingham, who tried to hide their criminal cash by stashing it inside their wardrobes, have been jailed for over three years each along with one other member of their cigarette smuggling gang, after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The gang’s smuggling plot was foiled in October 2012 when officers watched Jan Wojcik from Acton and Pawel Pasnik from West Bromwich meet with the driver of a Polish HGV on a secluded country lane just off the M25.
Both men were arrested at the scene on suspicion of tobacco smuggling offences.
Officers searched Wojcik’s black Mercedes car and found £14,000 in cash hidden inside a compartment in the boot. A search of his home revealed a further £15,240 hidden among the contents of his wardrobe.
A search of Pasnik’s home uncovered 16,000 Marlboro Gold duty free cigarettes and £76,000 wrapped in a bin liner, again hidden inside his wardrobe.
David Margree, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “Cigarette smuggling and laundering the proceeds of crime are both serious offences and HMRC takes robust action to detect, disrupt and bring those responsible before the courts. These offences have a devastating impact on honest retailers who have to compete with the black market and on the nation’s finances with around £2 billion lost in excise revenue each year.”
Seven months after his arrest and while still on bail, Wojcik was caught red-handed by HMRC officers as he delivered 53,000 duty free cigarettes to a London address. Wojcik was accompanied by Karolina Tomczyk from Southall and Polish lorry driver Maurisz Kardas. The cigarettes were estimated to be worth around £16,000 in lost excise duty and VAT.
Jan Wojcik, 41, a Polish national of Valletta Road, Acton, was found guilty and sentenced to three years and three months in prison.
Pawel Pasnik, 39, a Polish national of Witton Lane, West Bromwich, was found guilty and sentenced to three years and six months in prison.
Mariusz Kardas, 32, a Polish national, not resident in the UK, was found guilty and sentenced to four months in prison.
Karolina Tomczyk, 27 of Burket Close, Southall, will be sentenced on November 21.
Wojcik and Pasnik were later charged with money laundering and the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty. Tonczyk and Karda were charged with the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty.
All of the cash seized during the operation is currently subject to forfeiture proceedings.