HGV driver caught buying thousands of illegal cigarettes from smuggling gang

A lorry driver has been spared prison after he was caught buying thousands of illegal cigarettes from a smuggling gang. Carl Coxon, from Tameside[1] , was arrested back in April 2014 after being linked to a criminal network busted by HMRC officers. The seven-strong gang, who were caught operating from a central storage unit in Bolton, tried to deprive the taxpayer of almost ?760,000 by selling millions of illegal cigarettes.

During their investigation, HMRC officers identified several vehicles being used to transport counterfeit tobacco products across the North West, which led them to uncover Coxon’s part in the operation. The 56-year-old, of Clough Road, Stalybridge, pleaded guilty to evading ?11,720 in Excise Duty and VAT on the 40,000 illegal cigarettes he received.

Top left to right: James Ward, Isaac Duxbury, Paul Keane and Scott Taylor. Bottom left to right: Hassan Koc, Christopher Clarke and Munaf Patel

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At a Manchester Crown Court hearing on Friday, January 27, he was sentenced to six months jail, suspended for 12 months, and was also handed a night-time curfew between 9pm and 6am for three months.

All the goods have now been seized and sent for recycling. Tony Capon, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Coxon was caught buying illegal cigarettes from a gang in Bolton and now has a criminal record as a result. “This gang smuggled millions of cigarettes into the UK, evading hundreds of thousands of pounds that should have been paying for public services.

Instead they lined their own pockets with the criminal profits. “Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around ?2.4 billion a year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.

The sale of illegal cigarettes or tobacco will not be tolerated.” In April 2014, HMRC officers seized 3.2 million Pride brand cigarettes in Bolton, the majority still concealed in metal pipes and the rest in various stages of being loaded or inside vans in transit.

HMRC officers seized 3.2 million cigarettes which were concealed in metal pipes

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In total, 3,268,200 cigarettes were seized and the duty evasion on this seizure is ?757,765.85. Munaf Patel 47, of Blackburn Road, Bolton; James Ward, 59, of Norwood Grove, Bolton; Isaac Duxbury, 28, of Aldercroft Avenue, Bolton; and Christopher Clarke, 47, of Coal Pit Lane, Bolton,pleaded guilty to conspiring to evade Excise Duty.

Hassan Koc, 51, of Willoughby Lane, London; Paul Keane, 51, of Dorchester Road, Swinton; and Scott Taylor, 49, of Beesby Road, Lincoln, also pleaded guilty to the same charge.

All seven were jailed at Manchester Crown Court for a total of 11 years and four months back in July last year.

Anyone with information about the trade in smuggled or counterfeit tobacco products can contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000 to report it.

References

  1. ^ Tameside (www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)

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