A SUFFOLK man who was a member of a gang which smuggled tobacco and more than a million cigarettes into the UK in an attempt to evade £1.5million in duty and VAT has been jailed for three years.

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Anthony Wheeler, 49, who was living in a farmhouse near Wyncoll’s Lane, Layham, near Hadleigh, admitted fraudulently evading duty on 430kilograms of hand-rolling tobacco and more than a million cigarettes, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

Martyn Levett, prosecuting, told the court that the case, which involved four other defendants, concerned the smuggling of tobacco and cigarettes to sell on the black market.

The goods were hidden in cardboard packaging protecting household furniture and handicrafts imported from Indonesia and Thailand.

“Sometimes the contraband was concealed in packaging mocked up to give the appearance of a high-back chair or inside packages shaped as animals such as ducks.

“These examples show the sophisticated methods employed by the smuggling team,” said Mr Levett.

“Over a two-year period between June 2007 and June 2009, seven of the consignments were intercepted by Customs and were found to contain a total of 3.6m cigarettes and 1.6tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco. The duty evaded on the cigarettes was in excess of £500,000,” he said.

Also before the court were Michael Lowe, 51, of Woodford Green, Essex; Terry Turner, 51, of Rainham, Essex; Nigel Sheekey, 50, of Romford; and Paul Huzzey, 56, of Barkingside.

Sheekey was found guilty of being involved in four importations which evaded duty and VAT of £337,000 and was jailed for four years.

Turner was found guilty of being involved in two of the importations which evaded duty and VAT of £84,000 after a trial earlier this year and was jailed for 22 months.

Lowe admitted being involved in six importations and one attempted importation which evaded duty and VAT of £463,000 and was jailed for four years and nine months.

Huzzey admitted being involved in two importations which evaded duty and VAT of £114,000 and was jailed for 18 months.

The court heard that Wheeler had no previous convictions and had been a successful carpenter and furniture maker before moving to Indonesia to start a new life, where he became involved in the tobacco smuggling operation.

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