Newmarket/Ipswich: Jail terms for quartet involved in international smuggling operation

A SUFFOLK man has been jailed for his part in a major international smuggling operation which had the potential to manufacture millions of pounds worth of tobacco.

Fixer Robert Minshall was one of four men who received prison sentences at Norwich Crown Court after being arrested during raids involving 100 customs officers, including many based in Ipswich.

The 68-year-old, of Falmouth Avenue, Newmarket, was imprisoned for two years and has been given a Serious Crime Prevention Order for five years.

The gang were in the process of setting up an illegal counterfeit tobacco factory when HM Customs, supported by police and the.Serious Organised Crimes Agency raided premises in Suffolk, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Essex.

Officers discovered more than 16 tonnes of raw leaf tobacco at a farm in Leicestershire, which would have been manufactured into hand rolling tobacco.

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The duty evaded on this amount of tobacco alone is estimated as ₤1.9 million.

The scam was linked to Bulgaria and in a joint operation, officers from the Bulgarian National Counter Organised Crime Agency simultaneously searched premises in Bulgaria.

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Minshall, who also has an address at The Hamiltons, Newmarket, made arrangements to purchase a tobacco manufacturing machine from a company in Bulgaria.

Although he made several visits to the country and contractually agreed to the importation of the machinery the delivery never took place.

The day-to-day operation of the shredding machine and manufacture of the illicit tobacco products was to be controlled by David Scott and Nigel Barton. William Sartin also met with the trio to set up the factory.

All four men were arrested between July 1, 2008 and July 3, 2008, and later charged with conspiring, contrary to cheat the public revenue.

Minshall pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial. Sartin, 49, of Basildon, and Scott, 45, of Wood Thorpe, Nottingham, admitted the offence before trial. Barton, 45, of West Bridgford, Nottingham, was found guilty after his trial.

Sartin was jailed for 14 months, Barton for 30 months and Scott for 18 months.

After the case John Kay, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation based in Ipswich, said: “This was a planned fraud on a huge scale.

“If it had not been stopped the UK market would have been flooded with massive quantities of illegal counterfeit tobacco products.”

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