116,000 counterfeit cigarettes found in £33,000 Sunderland raid

Newcastle Crown Court.
Newcastle Crown Court.

Three men have been spared jail after a haul of bootleg tobacco was found at a storage unit in a £33,000 raid.

Customs officials found 116,000 counterfeit cigarettes and 24 kilos of rolling tobacco when they raided QC space in Sunderland last March.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the duty evaded on the illegal haul was £33,000.

David Scott, 62, of Queen Alexandra Road, Sunderland, Thomas Corner, 68, of Mony Terrace, Bishop Aukland and David Sillett, 61, of Simonside Road, Sunderland, all admitted being concerned in duty evasion.

The court heard despite their confessions of involvement, the details of the illegal enterprise remain unclear.

Prosecutor Robin Patton told the court: "Customs do not have a complete picture of what had been going on here, despite an investigation.

"We do not know how the tobacco was purchased, where from, what profit was to be made, where the outlets were, we simply do not have that information."

The court heard the men's fincances are now being trawled through by investigators under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard the trio have no criminal records, all have family and personal commitments and were able to provide references to their normally positive characters.

Judge Stephen Earl sentenced Scott, who leased the unit, to 10 months imprisonment, suspended for 15 months, with supervison and 200 hours unpaid work.

Corner was sentenced to eight months, suspended for 12 months, with 160 hours unpaid work.

Sillett was sentenced to eight months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with supervision and a four month, night time, curfew.

All three men must pay over £400 costs.