South Yorkshire men involved in UK's largest illegal tobacco factory due in court in Sheffield

Three men involved in running the UK’s largest ever illegal tobacco factory are due in court in Sheffield today.

Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 2:32 pm

They were involved in a £10 million fraud involving a factory which could produce 140 packs of cigarettes a minute.

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John Watson Snr, 47, aged 49, of Ellison Street, Thorne, Doncaster; Steven Quigley, 55 of Bainton Drive, Barnsley Mindaugus Aleksandravicius, 49, of Lithuania but formerly of Lincoln Road, Peterborough, are due at Sheffield Crown Court for a Proceeds of Crime hearing.

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Three men involved in running the UK's largest ever illegal tobacco factory are due at Sheffield Crown Court today (HMRC)

The aim of such hearings is to strip criminals of their assets to ensure they do not profit from their crimes.

The hearing at Sheffield Crown Court is listed for four days.

They were part of a 12-man gang that made millions of counterfeit cigarettes which were distributed across the North of England.

HM Revenue and Customs carried out coordinated raids at properties linked to the gang in County Durham and South Yorkshire in November 2015.

Officers discovered the largest tobacco factory ever encountered by HMRC inside a farm unit in Crook, County Durham. The factory had more than 24 tonnes of tobacco inside, along with 500,000 cigarettes, old tobacco machinery and products used to make the cigarettes. Officers also discovered caravans that were being used by the factory workforce.

The cigarettes produced at the factory were moved to a nearby garden centre, before being distributed to locations in the North East and South Yorkshire.

Watson, Quigley and Aleksandravicius were all found guilty of excise fraud and jailed in hearings at Sheffield Crown Court in 2020.