A COUPLE who ran an illicit enterprise dealing in smuggled tobacco and cigarettes have been jailed.
Nearly 400,000 cigarettes and 234 kilos of hand rolling tobacco were seized from a self storage unit rented by Melvin and Serena Mellors at Whittington Moor, Chesterfield, in February 2011.
Some of the cigarettes were counterfeit and included brands such as Regal Kingsize, Palace and Beaufort, resulting in a duty loss of over £100,000 from public finances.
Mr and Mrs Mellors, of Hucklow Avenue in Chesterfield, were charged with the fraudulent evasion of duty on the tobacco goods under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
Mr was sentenced to 18 months in prison. A confiscation order was also made requiring him to pay £50,116 within three months or serve a further 18 months in prison.
Mrs Mellors was sentenced to 12 months in prison. A confiscation order was also made requiring her to pay £50,116 within three months or serve a further 18 months in prison.
Gary Lampon, assistant director of criminal investigation for HM Revenue and Customs, said: “We are determined to eradicate this form of criminality and raise awareness of the dangers of this illicit trade.
“It has a devastating effect on all communities including legitimate retailers having to compete with black market goods. Tobacco smuggling costs the country around £2 billion in lost revenue each year – money that could be funding vital public services.”
He added: “We are urging the public to be vigilant. Cheap tobacco products can often seem like an attractive offer to people, lured into purchasing them at what seem like bargain prices. However, the truth is these sales are unlicensed and unregulated. Those involved are not concerned if they are selling to underage children and young people. In addition, with expertly crafted packaging it is almost impossible to spot whether the goods are counterfeit. Like any other counterfeit product, individuals don’t know exactly what they are buying.”