A SUNDERLAND smuggler has been jailed for his part in a £1.3million cigarette smuggling gang.
Glen Chrisp, of Pear Tree Mews, Sunderland, was part of a 10-strong gang brought before Newcastle Crown Court yesterday, to face conspiracy charges of fraudulent evasion of £1.3m duty, and money laundering a total of £820,000 in profits from the scam, between January 2010 and October 2012.
Newcastle Crown Court heard hundreds of thousands of pounds passed through the bank accounts of the conspirators involved – who were all claiming benefits – and hundreds of flights and boat trips were booked to collect shipments from Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg.
One gang member was “continental manager”, based in Belguim and tasked to send parcels back to the UK, packed with tobacco products. All 10 were jailed yesterday. Chrisp, 41, was jailed for 12 months.
The court was told the gang was run by father and team Michael and Kirsten Linney.
Michael, from Mill Dam, South Shields, was jailed for three years, while his daughter, from High Meadow, South Shields, was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months with supervision and 200 hours unpaid work.
The court heard the gang travelled abroad by sea or air to collect bulk stock of tobacco and cigarettes, often using pre-paid cards which were topped up with thousands of pounds of Euros.
Customs officials seized thousands of cigarettes and kilos of tobacco, on top of what was successfully smuggled through.
Prosecutor George Hazel-Owram told the court: “The modus operandi of this conspiracy was simple. The defendants would travel abroad to buy no duty paid rolling tobacco and cigarettes.
“They would then smuggle it in without paying duty. They then sold the products on to others.”
Mr Hazel-Owram said at a “conservative estimate”, a total of £1.25m in duty was evaded. All 10 admitted conspiracy to evade duty and all but Kris Linney and Chrisp admitted the money laundering conspiracy.
Graeme Cook, defending, said most of the cash going through bank accounts was “in one hand and out of the other” with it being used to purchase more goods to sell on.