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Cigs gang jailed

One of the leaders of a gang who helped set up an illegal tobacco factory capable of producing 625 million counterfeit cigarettes a year and five million pouches of fake hand rolling tobacco has been jailed for two years and six months.

A Dutch national, recently extradited from Poland, was the last member of a ten man gang involved in a £131m tax fraud to be sentenced. He was jailed for two years and six months. HM Revenue and Customs criminal investigators secretly tracked the gang, and shut a fully equipped cigarette factory in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, before it went into production in October 2009. HMRC said the factory could have made 625 million counterfeit cigarettes and five million pouches of fake hand rolling tobacco.

Gary Lampon, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC, said after the November 2 sentencing at Nottingham Crown Court: “The scale of this fraud was staggering. Klein had a key role in the conspiracy to launch a UK production facility, manufacturing counterfeit tobacco goods by the million. The gang’s ambition to progress from importing counterfeit cigarettes to manufacturing them on an industrial scale shows a determined ruthlessness to line their own pockets. They had no regard to the potential harm their criminal activity causes to individuals, communities and legitimate businesses.” The cort heard how the Dutchman, based in Poland, organised the manufacture, production and sale of counterfeit cigarettes. He also arranged supply and delivery of counterfeit packaging for cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco and provided foreign engineers to install and service cigarette-making machinery at a factory in Chesterfield and a barn at Laxton, Newark. Klein also sought to buy leaf tobacco to be supplied to the UK. HMRC had already seized 1.25 million cigarettes from the gang in two separate operations. First in June 2009, one million cigarettes were seized in Rainworth, Nottingham, and then in August 2009, when 250,000 cigarettes were seized at the Sherwood Business Park, Nottingham. The gang had conspired to escalate from trading in these illegal cigarettes and tobacco, to manufacturing their own counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco on an industrial scale. In co-ordinated searches at the gang’s three industrial units, in October 2009, HMRC investigators seized:

Chesterfield, Derbyshire – packaging for 43 million cigarettes, cigarette paper and cigarette tipping paper, foil cellophane, glue and cardboard inners for packets of 20 cigarettes.
Blidworth, Nottinghamshire – cigarette manufacturing equipment destined for another criminal gang, capable of producing a potential 750 million cigarettes a year with an annual revenue loss of over £141 million, 5,000 litres of 96 per cent proof alcohol in a lorry just yards before it was delivered to the gang’s warehouse. This was enough to produce 25,000 bottles of spirits such as vodka or whisky. Forensic analysis showed the liquid was denatured alcohol unfit for human consumption.
Laxton, Nottinghamshire – a five tonne tobacco cutting machine to process the tobacco to make counterfeit hand rolling tobacco and cigarettes and 100,000 counterfeit Golden Virginia pouches.


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