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Tobacco smugglers sentenced

Press Release   •   Aug 30, 2013 15:11 BST

Three men involved in tobacco smuggling and money laundering have been sentenced after 800kg of tobacco and £90,000 in cash were seized in Staines.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers arrested Dean Butt at his home in Tithe Lane, Wraysbury, near Staines, in May 2012 on suspicion of being involved in tobacco smuggling. As he was being arrested a van driven by Stephen George and carrying Gary Bear as a passenger approached the property. When George saw the officers he tried to flee but found his exit blocked by Customs vehicles.

Searches of the property revealed 800kg of tobacco concealed in cardboard boxes, and £17,000 in cash. A further £73,000 was discovered in the van.

Zoe Ellerbeck, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“Our investigation caught Butt, George and Bear red-handed. Not only did we discover a significant haul of tobacco, but also the profit of what was clearly an ongoing enterprise. The quick thinking of our investigators in preventing George’s escape meant that a larger sum of cash was also seized.

“HMRC works tirelessly to pursue those who smuggle tobacco and cigarettes for profit. We do this to protect the livelihoods of honest retailers.”

Butt claimed that the money, including £15,000 found hidden in his loft, was “personal funds”. He also said that a further £1,000 found on him was to pay a gas bill.

During interview, George, from Hayes, West London, denied knowing Butt or visiting his Tithe Lane property, saying that he had driven into the lane to buy burgers from the local butcher. The money in the van had come from gambling, he said. Bear, of Cowley, Uxbridge, said that he was simply accompanying George on a drive.

The duty evaded on the tobacco is more than £131,000.

Butt and Bear had denied evading excise duty and money laundering, but were found guilty after a trial at Reading Crown Court. George had entered a guilty plea earlier, and all three returned to the court for sentencing today.

Butt was sentenced in relation to evading duty on 800kg of tobacco; Bear and George in relation to 400kg.

A forfeiture hearing will take place at a later date concerning the cash seizures.

Notes for editors

1. Defendants’ details:

Dean Butt, DOB 19.04.60, of Tithe Lane, Wraysbury, near Staines, Surrey, had denied evading excise duty and money laundering. He was sentenced to eight months, suspended for 18 months, and must complete 200 hours of unpaid community work.

Stephen George, DOB 03.07.65, of Spoonbill Way, Yielding, Hayes, West London, admitted evading excise duty and money laundering. He was sentenced to five months, suspended for 18 months, and must complete 180 hours of unpaid community work.

Gary Bear, DOB 22.02.65, of St Clement Close, Cowley, Uxbridge, London, had denied evading excise duty and money laundering. He was sentenced to five months, suspended for 18 months, and must complete 180 hours of unpaid community work.

2. An image of some of the cash seized is available from our Flickr channel www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk and from the ‘press and media’ pages at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs

3. Follow us on Twitter @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.