Press release -
Final fake tobacco factory gang member jailed
One of the leaders of a gang who helped set up an illegal tobacco factory capable of producing 625 million counterfeit cigarettes and five million pouches of fake hand rolling tobacco has been jailed for two years and six months.
Dutch national Marius Klein, who was recently extradited from Poland, was the last member of a ten man gang involved in the £131 million tax fraud to be sentenced.
The fraud was foiled when HM Revenue & Customs criminal investigators who had secretly tracked the gang’s every move, swooped and closed down the fully equipped cigarette factory in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, before it went into production in October 2009.
Gary Lampon, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC, said:
“The scale of this fraud was staggering. Klein had a key role in the conspiracy to launch a UK production facility, manufacturing counterfeit tobacco goods by the million. The gang’s ambition to progress from importing counterfeit cigarettes to manufacturing them on an industrial scale shows a determined ruthlessness to line their own pockets. They had no regard to the potential harm their criminal activity causes to individuals, communities and legitimate businesses.”
From his base in Poland Klein was directly responsible for organising the manufacture, production and sale of counterfeit cigarettes. He also arranged the supply and delivery of counterfeit packaging for cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco and provided foreign engineers to install and service cigarette manufacturing machinery at the factories in Chesterfield and Laxton, Newark. Klein also attempted to make arrangements to purchase leaf tobacco to be supplied to the UK.
HMRC had already seized 1.25 million cigarettes from the gang in two separate operations. The first in June 2009, when one million cigarettes were seized in Rainworth, Nottingham, and the second in August 2009, when 250,000 cigarettes were seized at the Sherwood Business Park, Nottingham.
The gang had conspired to escalate from trading in these illegal cigarettes and tobacco, to manufacturing their own counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco on an industrial scale.
In co-ordinated searches at the gang’s three industrial units, in October 2009, HMRC investigators seized:
Chesterfield, Derbyshire - packaging for 43 million cigarettes, cigarette paper and cigarette tipping paper, foil cellophane, glue and cardboard inners for packets of 20 cigarettes.
Blidworth, Nottinghamshire - Cigarette manufacturing equipment destined for another criminal gang, capable of producing a potential 750 million cigarettes a year with an annual revenue loss of over £141 million, 5,000 litres of 96 per cent proof alcohol in a lorry just yards before it was delivered to the gang’s warehouse. This was enough to produce 25,000 bottles of spirits such as vodka or whisky, with a revenue loss of £109,000.
Forensic analysis showed the liquid was denatured alcohol unfit for human consumption.
Laxton, Nottinghamshire - .A five tonne tobacco cutting machine to process the tobacco to make counterfeit hand rolling tobacco and cigarettes and 100,000 counterfeit Golden Virginia pouches.
In passing sentence, His Honour Judge Jonathan Teare said:
“You and other gang members expectations were to make a very great of money – in fact millions.”
Notes to Editors
Pictures of the defendants and still photographs of the counterfeit tobacco manufacturing plant are available on HMRC’s Flickr channel www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk
Details of the defendant sentenced today, 2 November 2012 at Nottingham Crown Court:
Marius Klein, (DOB 29.10.55) a Dutch national, of Jeleniagorska 12, 59-623,
Lubomierz, Poland, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. A five year Serious Crime Prevention Order was also granted.
Klein pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to produce cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco contrary to the Criminal Law Act 1977 and Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
Polish authorities enforced a European arrest warrant and arrested Klein and ordered his extradition to the UK. He contested the extradition, but the Polish appeal court upheld the order.
3. Details of the defendants previously sentenced on 31 January 2012 at Nottingham Crown Court can be found here
4. Follow HMRC 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.