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Gang jailed after smuggling tobacco in washing machine lorry

HMRC investigators caught the fraudsters in the act as they unloaded goods into a self-storage unit in Twickenham

Tobacco smuggling gang jailed: Ryszard Sperka, Rafal Marcinkiewicz, Leszek Piatkiewicz and Piotr Przywara(Image: HMRC)

A gang of tobacco smugglers who hauled millions of cigarettes in a lorry loaded with washing machines are behind bars.

Three men from Hounslow and one from Poland involved in the scam have been jailed for a total of more than 11 years.

All four men were sentenced for charges of fraudulent evasion of excise duty at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday (August 4).

Cigarettes hidden behind washing machines in lorry (Image: HMRC)

 

Gang leader Piotr Przywara, 51, of Heath Road, Hounslow, and lorry driver Leszek Piatkiewicz, 48, of Poland admitted the offence and were jailed for three years and four months and 18 months respectively.

However Ryszard Sperka, 40, of Hanworth Road, Hounslow and Rafal Marcinkiewicz, 43, of Heath Road, Hounslow were convicted by a jury following a trial on July 31, 2017.

Sperka was jailed for four years and six months, and Marcinkiewicz for two years.

Washing machines in lorry used to smuggle 2.7 million cigarettes(Image: HMRC)

 

The fraudsters were caught red-handed unloading the goods at Access Self-Storage in Rugby Road, Twickenham on September 4, 2015.

Investigators from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found the illegal stash of 2.7 million Marlboro Gold cigarettes, worth £750,000 concealed in shrink-wrapped black plastic behind 119 washing machines.

The haul was found in a lorry that had arrived in the UK from Poland.

Sperka also had a further 50,000 Jin Ling cigarettes in his car which were seized on the same evening.

Tobacco smuggling gang jailed for total of more than 11 years for stashing cigarette haul behind washing machines in a lorry(Image: HMRC)

 

HMRC has started the process to recover the criminal proceeds.

David Margree, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “This was a brazen and well-planned criminal operation which would have ripped off taxpayers and honest retailers.

"They thought this scam would avoid detection, but we exposed their crimes and they are now paying the price."

HMRC encourages anyone with information regarding smuggling, storage or sale of illegal tobacco and alcohol to contact its Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.

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