A GANG of five men have been jailed after a man was arrested at Binbrook Industrial Estate when 8.29 million cigarettes and 5.4 tonnes of raw unprocessed tobacco was seized.
The men, four of them from North Lincolnshire, were jailed for a total of more than seven years at Grimsby Crown Court for their part in a major multi-million cigarette producing scam.
In the early hours of April 12 2005, Nicholas Leon from Canterbury and Gary Simmons from Cleethorpes were arrested while driving a 7.5 tonne lorry at Washington Services, Sunderland. Officers found 2 million Embassy Number 1 cigarettes in the back of the vehicle. Simmons received a four year sentence and Leon was jailed for two years.
When officers searched an industrial unit at The Old Cosalt Rope Works in Grimsby where a counterfeit cigarette manufacturing plant was discovered they arrested Kenneth Hodges from Grimsby who was driving a fork lift truck. He was jailed for six months.
Richard Harris from Cleethorpes was arrested at Binbrook Industrial Estate where 8.29 million cigarettes and 5.4 tonnes of raw unprocessed tobacco were seized. For his part in this crime Harris received a four month sentence, suspended for 12 months.
Stephen Hodges was arrested at his home in Grimsby on April 22 2005. He was jailed for six months.
The court heard officers from HM Customs and Revenue (HMRC) kept the gang under surveillance which led them to an industrial estate in Grimsby.
When the officers entered the factory they found large quantities of packaging and all the constituent cigarette parts, gold foil, filters, papers, glue, and flavouring stored there.
They also dismantled and removed a raw tobacco processing machine, a cigarette maker and a packing machine.
This illegal counterfeit manufacturing factory was capable of producing approximately 4,000-5,000 cigarettes every minute.
The factory may have produced more than 40 million cigarettes, evading duty of at least 13million.
Nick Burriss, Assistant Chief Investigation Officer from HMRC said: "We are delighted with the result achieved on this case.
"Not only does this type of criminal activity have a detrimental effect on the local economy by depriving local shopkeepers of lawful income but the chemicals used in the counterfeit process can cause even more harm than legitimate cigarettes.
"I would urge anyone who has been offered cigarettes or any product that may have come from an illegal source to telephone our 24 hour Confidential help-line on 0800 59 5000."
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