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Huyton cigarette smuggler has to repay £340k

Press Release   •   Oct 21, 2016 14:17 BST

Op Racing Car smuggled tobacco packets

A convicted cigarette smuggler from Huyton has been ordered to repay £340,000 or face a further four years in jail.

Stephen Nicholas Riozzi, 53, has been given three months to pay the confiscation order or serve the extra jail time.

During investigations into Riozzi’s finances after his original arrest in 2011, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found that he had amassed a substantial property portfolio in the UK and abroad.

Zoe Ellerbeck, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“Riozzi profited from the illegal trade in smuggled cigarettes and counterfeit tobacco and now has to repay his criminal profits. HMRC is committed to recovering money stolen from UK taxpayers whether it is hidden here or abroad.

“We urge anyone with information about the commercial trading of smuggled goods and the associated tax evasion in the Merseyside area to contact us on 0800 59 5000.”

His Honour Judge Wright at Liverpool Crown Court accepted that Riozzi had been living a lifestyle well beyond his declared income and that his properties were bought with the criminal profits associated with the illegal trade in smuggled cigarettes and tax evasion.

Riozzi, of The Park, Huyton, was caught at an industrial unit in Knowsley in December 2011 with huge quantities of illegal cigarettes and counterfeit tobacco. He was arrested by HMRC but gave investigators a false address and denied any knowledge of the tobacco products.

In March 2014 he was jailed for 53 months after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to two counts of fraud. The court determined today that he had benefited by £913,863 from his crimes, linked to 5.5 million smuggled cigarettes discovered at a Knowsley industrial unit.

Notes for editors

1.Stephen Nicholas Riozzi, DOB 25/02/61, of The Park, Huyton, Merseyside, was ordered to pay £340,285.32 or serve a default jail term for four years on 20 October 2016 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002. The default sentence is compulsory if he does not pay within three months.

2.HMRC’s financial investigators discovered he owned assets worth in excess of £1 million. In addition to cash seized at the time of his arrest, Riozzi had several bank and investment accounts in the UK, Morocco and Portugal. He also owned four properties in Merseyside, one in Warrington, as well as properties in Bulgaria and Spain.

3.He originally pleaded guilty to two counts of the fraudulent evasion of excise duty on a commercial quantity of cigarettes and tobacco under the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 1979, and to one count of possession of criminal property (namely the cash) under POCA and was jailed for 53 months on 5 March 2014 at the same court. Details available

4.There is no appeal against default jail sentences issued in confiscation orders and the order for repayment remains in place after the default sentence is served by the fraudster. If the assets held by the convicted criminal at the time of the order are less than the benefit derived from the fraud, then any future assets can be confiscated up to the value of the benefit of the fraud.

5. HMRC audio available

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7. Follow HMRC’s 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.