Saturday, November 3, 2012

Road Haulage Boss Who Smuggled Gets Six and a Half Years

Millions of 'Crudely Concealed' Cigarettes in Trucks
Shipping News Feature

UK- A case stretching back over two years ended this week when two men received jail sentences and one was found not guilty. Road haulage distribution manager Barry Richard Wood, 45, from Maidstone in Kent and Romanian truck driver Romulus Boca, 32, received terms of six and a half and three years respectively for their parts in attempting to smuggle millions of cigarettes through the Port of Dover hidden in the backs of two lorries.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigators intercepted the cigarettes at Dover Docks in July and November 2010. In total, 14.6 million cigarettes with an estimated duty loss of £2,516,257 were seized from the two hauls. The first lorry vehicle was stopped at Dover Docks in the early hours of Tuesday 20 July 2010. The documents with the load stated that it contained fruit and vegetables, but officers found a large number of crudely concealed cardboard boxes containing more than six million illicit cigarettes.

A second smuggling attempt was foiled four months later, when a lorry driven by Romulus Boca was searched again at Dover Docks and over eight million smuggled cigarettes were found. Boca was arrested and charged with smuggling offences. Although he absconded abroad while on bail, he was found and extradited back to the UK. His Honour Judge Byers on sentencing the two men said:

“You cheated every honest taxpayer in the UK and in particular small businesses in the Kent area. The sentence must punish you to reflect the seriousness of the crime and send a clear message that these offences will be dealt with severely by the courts.”

The intended duty evasion was calculated to be in the region of £2.5 million and the misery of the two men is unlikely to end here as investigators are actively pursuing the discovery and confiscation of assets which came about as a result of the pair’s previous criminal activity. Wood was found guilty in October on two charges of evading excise duty and sentenced to six years six months on each offence to run concurrently, Boca pleaded guilty in June and was sentenced on the 1st November alongside Wood at Maidstone Crown Court. After the pronouncement of sentences Peter Hollier, HMRC Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, said:

“These men used their positions in a transport company, and their knowledge of the freight industry, to set up this smuggling operation. They are criminals out to make a profit without concern for the consequences for the livelihoods of honest shopkeepers.

“The sentences will send out a clear message to those attempting to avoid paying their dues that the penalties can be severe. If you know of any illegal smuggling activities, please call our 24-hour hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

Photo: The rear of one of the trailers showing hidden packs of Regal and Benson & Hedges cigarettes.