Northern Ireland

Man smuggled 200,000 cigarettes

A 40 year-old man who smuggled 200,000 cigarettes through Belfast port, where he worked as boatman, has been sentenced to 200 hours community service.

Gerard Maxwell of North Hill Street in Belfast pleaded guilty to the evasion of over £47,000 of duty on the smuggled Russian cigarettes.

In July 2010 Harbour police saw suspicious activity next to a ship, the MV Baltiskiy, followed a van to a nearby warehouse and found the cigarettes in the van.

Maxwell, who facilitated the exchange, initially claimed he had been out for a walk and had accidentally left his mobile phone and keys in a van, while giving directions to Erikas Jakubauskas, the driver of the van.

Seized

He later pleaded guilty to arranging the supply of the cigarettes. A search of Maxwell's house uncovered a small quantity of cigarettes, bearing the same batch markings as those in the van.

The cigarettes, along with £2,660 in cash, found in Maxwell's Belfast home, were seized by HM Revenue & Customs.

Jakabauskas also pleaded guilty last month and was sentenced to three months imprisonment suspended for 12 months.

John Whiting, Assistant Director Criminal Investigation for HMRC said: "Maxwell used his position as an employee at Belfast docks to facilitate the smuggling and sale of illicit cigarettes.

"Tobacco smuggling is organised fraud on a global scale, encouraging and supporting criminality within our communities, and robbing taxpayers of millions each year in unpaid duty and VAT.

"Although you may think you are getting a bargain, you really have no idea what you are paying for."