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County Durham tobacco smuggler back behind bars

Press Release   •   Jun 01, 2017 17:23 BST

HMRC seized cigarettes from bin

A County Durham man has been jailed for the third time for tobacco smuggling after he was caught with more than 40,000 illicit cigarettes just weeks before standing trial for the same crime.

Repeat offender Thomas Griffiths, 57, of Durham Street, Spennymoor, is back behind bars after being jailed for 21 months for smuggling, having already received sentences of 22 months for dealing in illicit tobacco.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) caught Griffiths with 40,180 non-duty paid cigarettes in his car and 3,740 stashed in his home, worth an estimated £11,000 in duty taxes. Officers also found £12,000 cash hidden in a kitchen bin.

Investigators raided his home in April 2014 and found the tobacco just one month before he went on trial for another smuggling offence. He was convicted and jailed for 10 months in June 2014 after he was found with 176,000 non-duty paid cigarettes and 112 kg hand rolling tobacco in his car and two storage units.

This followed a 12-month prison sentence in January 2011 for his role in a six-man tobacco smuggling gang, which brought 10 million illicit cigarettes worth nearly £2 million in duty taxes, into the UK.

Griffiths was caught for the third time after his accomplice, David Linton, of Pelaw Crescent, Chester-le-Street, was seen collecting a parcel from his house.

Linton was arrested by Northumbria Police who found the parcel contained £26,775 cash.

Griffiths claimed he found the cigarettes in a layby and was going to hand them in to the police.

He admitted evasion of excise duty and money laundering at Newcastle Crown Court on 2 May 2017 and was sentenced to 21 months at the same court yesterday, 31 May 2017, by HHJ Recorder Khan.

His partner, Mandy Hetherington, 27, admitted hiding the 3,740 cigarettes in their home and was given a 12-month community service order and ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work.

Linton admitted money laundering and was sentenced to four months jail suspended for two years and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work.

HMRC have already successfully applied for the forfeiture of both the £26,775 and the £12,000.

Confiscation proceedings are now under way to recover the proceeds of the crime.

Notes to Editors

  1. Thomas Griffiths, 09/10/60, of Durham Street, Spennymoor, was sentenced to 21 months jail.
  2. Mandy Hetherington, 29/05/90 of Durham Street, Spennymoor, was sentenced to a 12-month community service order and ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work.
  3. David Linton, 12/12/42 of Pelaw Crescent, Chester-le-Street, was sentenced to four months jail suspended for two years and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work.
  4. Follow HMRC Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice
  5. 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.