Ice skater smuggled 3m cigarettes

A PROFESSIONAL ice skater has been jailed for smuggling three million cigarettes through Felixstowe. Weng Lai admitted evading nearly £500,000 of excise duty by importing the Marlborough cigarettes in with a consignment of shoe racks from China.

A PROFESSIONAL ice skater has been jailed for smuggling three million cigarettes through Felixstowe.

Weng Lai admitted evading nearly £500,000 of excise duty by importing the Marlborough cigarettes in with a consignment of shoe racks from China.

Barnaby Jameson, prosecuting at Ipswich Crown Court, said Lai used the alias Steven Lee to set up a company called A Star Trading.

He said: “Lee took out a lease on a barn in Norfolk and this was used as a delivery address for the contraband.”


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He added that 2,980,000 cigarettes worth £471,195 in excise duty were imported by Lai and others.

Mr Jameson said that on July 1 the cigarettes and shoe racks arrived in a container at Felixstowe Docks and a Felixstowe freight forwarding company was assigned to deliver the container to the Norfolk barn on July 7.

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Mr Jameson added: “The container from China was examined by customs and a quantity of cigarettes were found among the boxes of shoe racks. Officers from customs and revenue posed as delivery men and arrived at the barn where Lai signed for the container in the name of Mr Lee.”

He said the lighter shoe rack boxes were separated from the heavier boxes containing cigarettes and then Lai's friend Chee Kean Wong arrived in a large van.

Mr Jameson said Wong had provided Lai with accommodation, a car and a mobile phone. He told the court that Wong, 40, denied being involved in fraudulent evasion of duty and had been acquitted by a Crown Court jury earlier this year.

Chadim Al'Hassain, for Lai, said his client had pleaded guilty to the offence and had remained in custody since July 7.

He said the 29-year-old, of East Ham, London, was to be paid £2,000 for his part in the crime and was going to use this to get home to Malaysia to see his parents.

The court heard that Lai would be deported following his prison sentence.

Mr Al'Hassain said his client was of previous good character and had been involved in professional ice-skating since he was a young boy.

He said: “He came into this country legitimately but he fell on difficult times and once here he was exploited.”

Judge Peter Thompson sentenced Lai to 18 months in prison and said the 258 days he had already served in custody would be included in the jail term.

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