Attila Kralovic, 32, from Slovakia, tried to smuggle a tonne of Turner hand rolling tobacco packed into cardboard boxes in his lorry through the Port of Dover, an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found.
He was stopped on 4 June this year by Border Force officers, who searched the lorry and found the tobacco. Kralovic was arrested, the tobacco was seized and the case was referred to HMRC for investigation. The duty evaded on the tobacco was £232,000.
Kralovic told HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators he agreed to smuggle the tobacco for a fee when he was approached at a service station in Belgium. The next day he was directed to a farm to pick up the illegal load and was promised £1,500 when he got to Dover.
Tom Hunnisett, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“Tobacco smuggling undermines legitimate businesses who play by the rules and costs the UK around £2.5 billion a year – money that could be used to fund vital public services.
“We encourage anyone with information regarding the smuggling, storage or sale of illegal tobacco to report it to HMRC online, or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Paul Morgan, Director of Border Force South East and Europe said:
“This was a significant seizure which has starved those responsible of the proceeds of their criminality.
“The black market cheats honest traders and it is effectively stealing from the public purse. People tempted by cheap cigarettes and tobacco should think again.”
Kralovic pleaded to the fraudulent evasion of duty and on 3 July 2018, at Maidstone Crown Court, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. HMRC has seized €2,000 Kralovic was carrying under the Proceeds of Crime Act and he will have to prove it belongs to him.