Five years for cigs smuggler

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A DONCASTER company director described by a judge as ‘deceitful’ is today starting a long jail term as the final member of a criminal gang to be sentenced smuggling more than 64 million counterfeit cigarettes into the UK.

Kevin Harle, aged 48, of Carisbrook Court, Arksey, was the last of 13 gang members jailed for a total of more than 36 years for evading £10 million in excise duty.

He received five years at Southwark Crown Court in London.

Between November 2007 and June 2008 HM Revenue & Customs seized five shipments containing more than nine million smuggled cigarettes. Further investigations identified 25 shipments, totalling more than 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.

Sentencing Harle, Judge Beddoe said he had played a key role and described him as deceitful and arrogant.

HMRC Assistant Director Criminal Investigation John Cooper 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.”

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