The final member of a criminal gang that smuggled over 64 million counterfeit cigarettes into the UK, evading £10m in duty, has been jailed for five years .
Kevin Harle, 48, a company director of Carisbrook Court, Arksey, was the last of 13 gang members together jailed for a total of over 36 years.
Between November 2007 and June 2008 HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) seized five shipments containing over nine million smuggled cigarettes.
Further investigations identified 25 shipments, totalling over 64 million cigarettes.
Many of the fake cigarettes were manufactured in Moldova and Ukraine before being smuggled into the UK hidden in consignments of glass, fruit juice, pickled vegetables and dog food.
John Cooper, Assistant Director Criminal Investigation for HMRC said:
“These convictions conclude a complex investigation that has led to the complete dismantling of a prolific criminal organisation responsible for smuggling millions of cigarettes and evading over £10M in duty.
“This was a daring attempt to rip-off smokers and taxpayers by flooding the UK with millions of counterfeit cigarettes. With expertly crafted packaging it can be difficult to spot fake cigarettes, but like any other counterfeit product; you have no idea exactly what you’re buying. Anyone with information about this type of criminal activity is urged to contact Customs Hotline 0800 59 5000 or email email@example.com”
Sentencing Harle at Southwark Crown Court, His Honour Judge Beddoe said he had played a key role and described him as deceitful and arrogant.