A gang of Doncaster smugglers who described the tobacco they were selling as ‘wet, mouldy and like manure’ were among 700 tax and benefits cheats convicted by HM Revenue and Customs last year.
The men – Daniel Harty, Billy-Jo Wall, John Sabin, William and Samual Tomlinson from Doncaster and, Ben Kirk, Peter Lawrence and Jonathan Ellis from Retford – were jailed for a total of 22 years after customs smashed their £26 million criminal operation.
They flooded the north of England with more than 150 million cigarettes and two tonnes of low-quality tobacco creating a distribution network which transported millions of low-grade cigarettes throughout the north of England to warehouses, storage yards and farms.
The shipments were then broken down into smaller loads and delivered to towns and cities across the UK to sell on the black market.
The case has been ranked as one of HMRC’s top five tax-cheat prosecutions of 2013.
HMRC said between January and the end of November, their investigations led to 690 successful convictions – up from 477 in 2012
The convictions led to sentences totalling 355 years in prison.
David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: “The Government is determined to ensure people pay the tax they owe and HMRC will come down hard on those who try to cheat the system.
“Honest taxpayers will be pleased these fraudsters are now paying for their crimes.
Donald Toon, director for criminal investigations at HMRC, said: “These convictions send a clear message tax fraud will not be ignored and tax fraudsters should be very concerned.”