A former Royal Marines Commando, who until recently worked as an anti-piracy guard, was caught smuggling a haul cigarettes after turning to criminal ways himself.
Darlington’s Dale Bennett, 31, of Lowther Drive and his father Noel Bennett, 63, of Durham Road, admitted trying to sneak nine bags of contraband through Newcastle International Airport.
Today, the pair were handed suspended prison terms and ordered to pay more than £23,000 in excise duty within three months – or go to jail for three years.
Diccon Wood, assistant director at the HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service, said: “Dale Bennett’s career has been one of esteem, upholding law and order in positions of responsibility.
"But collaborating with his father to profit from the sale of illicit tobacco – at the expense of the taxpayer and legitimate local businesses – has undermined all of that.
He added: “Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clamp down on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2billion a year. Anyone with information on this type of fraud should contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000."
Both men claimed to be travelling alone when they were stopped by Border Force officers after arriving on a flight from Dubai via London on February 6 2016.
The Bennetts said they were unaware of their duty-free tobacco allowance, but when told, Dale, who received a warning for a similar offence just 13 months earlier, admitted he was carrying ‘a bit more’.
Searches of the duo’s baggage revealed a bounty of 64,000 cigarettes and 33kg of hand-rolling tobacco – worth £23,330 in unpaid duty. The duty-free tobacco allowance for passengers arriving from outside the EU is 200 cigarettes or 250g of hand-rolling tobacco.
Dale, who at the time worked across the world defending oil tankers and cargo ships for a private security firm, was arrested alongside his father.
Both admitted the fraudulent evasion of excise duty at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on 5 September 2016. They were sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for 18 months, at Newcastle Crown Court today, 4 April 2017, by Her Honour Judge Sarah Mallett.
Noel and Dale were also handed four and three-month curfews respectively and must each carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work.
Following an order made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, Dale must repay £10,534.86, and Noel £13,169.66.
They will go to prison for three years if they do not pay the money within three months.