Press release -
Half-baked plot sees extradited tobacco smuggler jailed
A lorry driver caught smuggling 2.9 million cigarettes into the UK, hidden under a load of half-baked mouldy baguettes, has been jailed for four years and three months after being extradited from Romania by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Simion Bocan, 23, of Transylvania, Romania, was stopped by Border Force officers at Dover Eastern Docks on 6 October 2015. Bocan told officers the lorry’s trailer unit contained 30 pallets of frozen baguettes. But the soggy, raw and mouldy bread was being used to hide boxes loaded with 2,948,160 ‘Regal King-Size’ cigarettes worth £788,249 in evaded duty.
Evidence gathered during the HMRC investigation suggests a trial run was made, using the same bread, a few days earlier.
A European Arrest Warrant was issued after Bocan fled from the UK while on bail. He was extradited from Romania in July 2016 and remanded in custody.
Alan Tully, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“Bocan smuggled a substantial quantity of illegal cigarettes into the UK. He fled the country to try to avoid paying for his crimes. However, no one is beyond HMRC’s reach, and with the co-operation of our overseas partners he is now behind bars.
“HMRC continues to work with other enforcement agencies at home and abroad to reduce the availability of illicit tobacco, which costs the UK around £2.4 billion a year, steals from communities and harms the livelihood of legitimate retailers. We encourage anyone with information regarding the smuggling, storage or sale of illegal tobacco to contact our 24-hour Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Her Honour Judge Williams, said:
“This sentencing reflects the serious criminal behaviour, failure to answer bail, and this being a sophisticated operation”. Adding, “The baguettes were stale and an earlier trip on 1st October should be treated as a dummy run for the (smuggling) run on the 6th October.”
Bocan pleaded not guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty at Maidstone Crown Court on 31 August 2016, but changed his plea to admit guilt on 8 December 2016. He was jailed immediately for four years and three months.
Notes for editors
- Simion Anghel BOCAN (DOB 24.06.93), a lorry driver of Pui, Hunedoara, Transylvania, Romania.
- He was charged with the fraudulent evasion of excise duty, contrary to the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
- Photographs are available from HMRC’s Flickr channelwww.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk
- Anyone with information about people suspected of smuggling, selling or storing illegal tobacco should contact our hotline on 0800 59 5000 or report it online at: https://www.gov.uk/report-tobacco-or-alcohol-tax-evasion
- 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.