A couple who masterminded a nationwide counterfeit tobacco production racket capable of robbing the taxpayer of £1 million a week, have been sentenced.
Hua Tang Chen, 40, and Cui Wang, 32, were behind two illegal processing plants, in London and Manchester, overseeing the smuggling and distribution of illicit tobacco across the country.
Hua Tang Chen was caught by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators unloading boxes of counterfeit packaging and duty stamps at his girlfriend’s Barking home in April this year. A few minutes later, a delivery vehicle arrived containing 105,800 non-UK Duty paid cigarettes concealed in air filters. A search of his flat uncovered £20,000 in used £20 notes.
In a separate raid on the same day, HMRC uncovered machinery used to process raw tobacco in a garage Wang rented in Chingford. They also found three tonnes of processed hand-rolling tobacco.
At the same time HMRC raided a house in Failsworth, Manchester, where a further processing plant was unearthed, as well as nearly two tonnes of raw tobacco. Three illegal Chinese workers who were working and living in the house, later admitted the fraudulent evasion of excise duty and were each sentenced to six months in prison in June this year. The duty and taxes evaded on all the goods seized totalled £1.2 million.
Cui Wang was arrested at home before the raids in London and Manchester were carried out. She was sentenced today in her absence, as she absconded before her trial.
Chris Gill, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“Hua Tang Chen and Cui Wang were overseeing a huge operation, flooding the streets of the UK with illicit tobacco with absolutely no regard to the potential harm such criminal acts cause to individuals, communities and legitimate businesses.
“Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2 billion a year and by dismantling this illegal operation, we have prevented millions of pounds from being stolen through the evasion of duty.
“We would urge anyone with information about people dealing in illicit cigarettes or tobacco, or the whereabouts of Cui Wang, to contact our 24-hour hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Hua Tang Chen was sentenced to three years in prison when he appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court today. In her absence, Cui Wang was sentenced to five years in prison.
Notes for editors
- Hua Tang Chen, DOB 12/03/1976, High Road, Tottenham, London, N17, pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty when he appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 21 July 2016. He was sentenced to three years in prison at the same court today.
- Cui Wang, DOB 19/05/1984, Sunningdale Avenue, Barking, London, IG11, was found guilty of the fraudulent evasion of excise duty on 4 October 2016, following a trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court. She was sentenced to five years in prison in her absence at the same court today.
- Shuai Fang, DOB 22/09/1993, Oldham Road, Failsworth, Manchester, pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty when he appeared at Manchester Crown Court on 10 June 2016 and was sentenced to six months in prison.
- Suo Mei Fang, DOB 22/05/1969, pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty when she appeared at Manchester Crown Court on 10 June 2016 and was sentenced to six months in prison.
- Fu Cai Chen, DOB 17/06/1969, pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty when he appeared at Manchester Crown Court on 10 June 2016 and was sentenced to six months in prison
- 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.