Three people from the West Midlands have been sentenced for their role in a £1.8 million tobacco smuggling ring.
Jian Ning Yang, 28, from Dudley, and Alan Nesbeth, 53, and Renna Graham, 63, both from Bilston, were arrested by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for involvement in tobacco fraud. One seizure of more than nine tonnes of tobacco had been smuggled in Chinese tea boxes.
Colin Booker, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:
“This highly-organised criminal gang thought nothing of ripping off honest taxpayers. They defrauded legitimate businesses and even their customers, who were sold a low-quality product.
“Our investigation has prevented a huge supply of unregulated tobacco from reaching the UK market. We will not cease in our efforts to tackle the cheats and fraudsters and their illegal activities.”
Nesbeth, Graham and Yang were arrested in August 2012 outside Bilston Post Office, where they were found collecting parcels of non-duty paid cigarettes.
A search of Yang’s home address revealed £38,175 in cash - £9,000 of which was found inside a freezer - large quantities of tobacco and Amber Leaf pouches, and paperwork showing payments made to storage and courier firms. A search of Graham’s home revealed more than 2,600 duty-free cigarettes.
Nesbeth was apprehended again by HMRC officers outside a self-storage facility in Wednesbury in May 2013. Officers found a huge consignment of tobacco in a lorry, which was being unloaded into two hire vans and a nearby garage. Nesbeth had hired the storage unit just two weeks before the delivery of tobacco that was found among a load of Chinese tea. Counterfeit tobacco packaging was also found at his home address.
Yang pleaded guilty to evading excise duty, but Nesbeth and Graham denied the charge against them and were found guilty after a trial in August 2014.
Notes to editors
1. Photographs of the seizure are available on request or from HMRC’s Flickr channel: www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk
2. Details of the defendants sentenced on 4 September at Wolverhampton Crown Court:
Alan Nesbeth of Glyn Avenue, Moxley, Bilston, DOB 17.12.60, was sentenced to five years in prison.
Jian Ning Yang of Linwood Road, Dudley, DOB 18.12.85, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
Renna Graham of Bradley Lane, Bilston, DOB 13.07.51, was sentenced to 15 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, a four-month electronically tagged curfew from 8pm and 8am and made to attend eight victim awareness sessions.
3. All were charged with conspiracy to evade duty of £195,920.63 on 1,242.8kg of tobacco and 33,080 cigarettes. Nesbeth was charged with being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of excise duty of £1,628,074.50 on 9,425kg of tobacco.
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