Jail terms for cigarette smugglers

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FOUR South Yorkshire crooks have been jailed for their part in a smuggling ring which helped the Italian Mafia flood Britain with black market cigarettes - while another escaped immediate custody.

Sean Pickering, from Barnsley, and Dean Grainger, Michael Sharp, David Colakovic and Paul Tucker, from Doncaster, teamed up with a notorious family to sneak contraband tobacco past customs inside consignments of vegetables, dog food and orange juice.

Once they had arrived in Britain, huge quantities of cigarettes were sent to a warehouse in Denaby Main, near Doncaster, for distribution.

Prosecutors estimate the 11-strong gang ripped off the taxpayer by up to 10 million by evading duty on the cheap imports from Eastern Europe.

The scam was masterminded by 54-year-old Hertfordshire wine merchant Peter Vyse, who travelled to Romania and Greece to organise the shipments, meeting with members of the Prudentino crime family from south east Italy, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Vyse, who claimed he was sourcing local vintage wines, was locked up for seven years.

Richard Jory, prosecuting, said customs officers seized the contraband in 2007 and 2008, recovering more than eight million cigarettes.

Mr Jory added the smuggling ring carried out "excise duty tax evasion on a massive scale".

Grainger, aged 32, of Stanley Road, Scawthorpe, was jailed for three years and four months, Sharp, 49, of Sherwood Avenue, Doncaster, was jailed for two years, Colakovic, 29, of Wensleydale Road, Scawsby, was jailed for four years while Tucker, 50, of Challenger Drive, Sprotbrough, will serve two years.

Pickering, 40, of Birk Avenue, Kendray, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years with 150 hours' unpaid work.

The five were convicted of excise duty evasion.

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