A judge has jailed a Doncaster man for three years for his part in a ‘professionally organised’ scheme moving hand-rolled tobacco on which duty had not been paid.
Customs officers believed the group – of which Anthony Scothorne was a member – organised the importation of at least 2,100 kilogrammes of tobacco which was liable for import tax of more than £370,000.
Scothorne, aged 65, known as ‘Sunbed Tony’ because of his permanent tan, was found guilty by a jury at Leeds Crown Court earlier this year of conspiracy to evade duty.
The trial heard on November 8, 2012, officers raided a unit at Ready Steady Store in Doncaster and found Ronald Edwards, the leader of the conspiracy, had just taken delivery of over 1,800 kilogrammes of tobacco.
The delivery note for the pallets described the contents of the cardboard box as ‘discount/ex display clothing’ but the duty evaded on the tobacco inside on that load alone was £295,000.
Craig Hassall, prosecuting, said Edwards’ son Lee and a son-in-law, Paul Higgins, had also helped in the importation, and when the address of Lee Edwards was searched in Bawtry Road, Doncaster, an industrial packaging machine and several rolls of cellophane were found.
Remnants of tobacco were found on the machine showing it had previously been used, and pouches and tax stamps were also recovered. At the bottom of a wardrobe templates were found for counterfeit tobacco pouches including Golden Virginia, Drum and Tennessee Gold.
A packing plant was also found in the garage at Ronald Edwards’ address in Lords Close, Doncaster, including wooden racks of the size to hold tobacco pouches.
Scothorne, of Thorntondale Road, Scawsby, was a long standing friend of Ronald Edwards and had a previous conviction in 2010 for possessing articles for use in fraud relating to counterfeit tobacco pouches and wrapping machines and was able to provide information on the type of equipment needed to the group.
Jailing Scothorne, Judge Tom Bayliss QC said: “You didn’t play an organisational role but you did play a key role. Your previous conviction shows you had the knowledge to carry out the operation.
“This was highly organised criminal activity resulting in a potential loss to the revenue of hundreds of thousands of pounds.”