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Gang in a spin after washing machine scam

Press Release   •   Aug 07, 2017 15:57 BST

Gang jailed: (Clockwise from top left) Ryszard Sperka, Rafal Marcinkiewicz, Leszek Piatkiewicz and Piotr Przywara

A group of London based fraudsters caught smuggling cigarettes in a lorry load of washing machines has been jailed for a total of more than 11 years.

Investigators from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found the illegal stash worth £750,000 in duty, hidden in shrink-wrapped black plastic behind 119 washing machines in a lorry that arrived in the UK from Poland. The haul included 2.7 million Marlboro Gold cigarettes.

Officers arrested gang members Piotr Przywara, 51, Leszek Piatkiewicz, 48, Ryszard Sperka, 40, and Rafal Marcinkiewicz, 43 at a self-storage unit in Twickenham on 4 September 2015, where they were caught red-handed unloading the goods. Sperka also had a further 50,000 Jin Ling cigarettes in his car which were seized on the same evening.

David Margree, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“This was a brazen and well-planned criminal operation which would have ripped off taxpayers and honest retailers. They thought this scam would avoid detection, but we exposed their crimes and they are now paying the price.

“HMRC encourages anyone with information regarding the smuggling, storage or sale of illegal tobacco and alcohol to contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

The four men, were sentenced on Friday, August 4, 2017 at Isleworth Crown Court after facing charges of fraudulent evasion of excise duty. Gang leader Przywara, and lorry driver Piatkiewicz, admitted the offence and were jailed for 3 years 4 months and 18 months respectively.

But Sperka, and Marcinkiewicz, were convicted by a jury following a trial. Sperka was jailed for four years and six months, and Marcinkiewicz for two years.

HMRC has started the process to recover the criminal proceeds.

Notes for editors

Details of the defendants’ sentences:

  • 1.Ryszard Sperka (DOB 20.07.77) of Hanworth Road, Hounslow, London, was found guilty at Isleworth Crown Court on 31 July, 2017 of fraudulent evasion of excise duty and sentenced to four years and six months’ jail on 4 August, 2017.
  • 2.Rafal Marcinkiewicz (DOB 06.05.74) of Heath Road, Hounslow, London, was found guilty at Isleworth Crown Court on 31 July, 2017 of fraudulent evasion of excise duty and sentenced to two years’ jail on 4 August, 2017.
  • 3.Piotr Przywara (DOB 29.03.1966) of Heath Road, Hounslow, London, admitted fraudulent evasion of excise duty at Isleworth Crown Court on 27 January, 2017 and was sentenced to three years and four months’ jail on 4 August 2017. He was arrested at Holyhead in Wales on 13 September 2015 attempting to flee the UK.
  • 4.Leszek Piatkiewicz (DOB 09.06.69) of Poland, admitted fraudulent evasion of excise duty at Kingston Crown Court on 5 October, 2016 and was sentenced to 18 months’ jail at the same court on 11 November, 2016.
  • 5.The goods were unloaded at the Access Self-Storage in Rugby Road, Twickenham.
  • 6.Photographs of the defendants and more of the load are available on request or from HMRC’s Flickr channel www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk
  • 7.Anyone with information about people or businesses involved in the sale, storage or smuggling of illicit alcohol of tobacco can contact HMRC on our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887 or at www.hmrc.gov.uk/reportingfraud/online.htm.
  • 8.Follow HMRC Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice

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.