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Cigarette smuggling attempt crumbles at border

Press Release   •   Oct 25, 2016 17:04 BST

Cigarette smuggling attempt crumbles at border SE 16.16

A lorry driver caught smuggling 2.6 million counterfeit cigarettes into the UK hidden behind boxes of rotten apples has been jailed for 21 months, after an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation.

Pawel Michal Maroszek, 32, was stopped by Border Force officers at Dover Eastern Docks in May 2016, after a scan revealed a suspicious load in the refrigerated lorry he was driving. Officers discovered 2,640,000 cigarettes surrounded by pallets of rotten apples.

The estimated excise duty evaded was £655,327. The case was referred to HMRC for investigation.

Alan Tully, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

"Maroszek thought the cigarettes were well concealed within the load of rotten apples and wouldn’t be discovered. But he was wrong and he is now paying for his crime.

"We continue to work with other enforcement agencies to reduce the availability of illicit tobacco, which costs the UK around £2 billion a year in stolen revenue. Don’t let criminals profit by undermining legitimate retailers. Anyone with information about the smuggling or illegal sale of tobacco can report it by calling our 24-hour Hotline on 0800 59 5000."

Maroszek had previously pleaded not guilty to the crime, but changed his plea to guilty before his trial started at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday 24 October. He was jailed for 21 months.

Notes for editors

  1. Pawel Michal MAROSZEK, DOB 06/06/1984, a lorry driver of Sulechow, 32-010, Poland, was arrested on 9 May 2016 at Dover Eastern Docks.
  2. He pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty, contrary to section 170(2) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979, before his trial started at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday 24 October.
  3. The seized cigarettes were all counterfeit L&M King Size.
  4. Since 2000, HMRC, working with other enforcement agencies, has more than halved the size of the illicit market in cigarettes. In the last two years alone, more than 3.5 billion illicit cigarettes and over 599 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco have been seized resulting in 848 prosecutions.
  5. Anyone with information regarding tobacco fraud is encouraged to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000 or via the website https://www.gov.uk/report-tobacco-or-alcohol-tax-evasion
  6. Follow HMRC Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice
  7. Photos are available from HMRC's Flickr channel www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.