Cigarette smugglers jailed

THE owners of a Cheshire cash and carry business have been jailed for smuggling 19 million cigarettes into the UK.

Brothers Peter and Martin Gajdos, who own Peter and Martin Ltd in Ellesmere Port, were both sentenced to four years in prison at Chester Crown Court after pleading guilty to evading duty on tobacco and alcohol products.

The pair, who live at Bunbury Green, were arrested by HM Revenue amp; Customs officers in June 2010, after a lorry was stopped at Dover by UK Border Agency officials found to be carrying 1.8 million L amp;M cigarettes concealed behind pallets of food. When questioned, the driver said that most of the pallets of food were to be dropped at the brothers’ cash and carry business in Ellesmere Port.

Both brothers, originally from Slovakia, denied any involvement in tobacco smuggling. But HMRC investigators found that between 2008 and 2010, they had ordered 18.9m cigarettes, to be delivered to the UK via a Slovakian export company. They had also ordered Slovakian mixed beers and alcohol. The unpaid duty on the cigarettes and alcohol is estimated to be in excess of £3m.

Simon De Kayne, assistant director, criminal investigation for HMRC said: “The Gajdos brothers were smuggling millions of cigarettes, stealing revenue vital to funding public services. “The government has made an additional £917m available to HMRC to tackle evasion, avoidance and fraud across the tax system, including trading in illicit tobacco.”

Commenting on the case, FWD chief executive James Bielby, said “As the Government is currently imposing restrictions on the legitimate supply chain, this is a timely reminder that there is a pressing need to stamp out the illegal trade in both tobacco and alcohol. Operations like this not only deprive the treasury of revenue, they also tempt customers away from law-abiding wholesalers with prices which just cannot be sustained on legitimately-sourced stock.”

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