Sunderland carer hid 24,000 illegal cigarettes in pans and suitcases

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A CARER was found with 24,000 cigarettes and more than 17kgs of hand rolling tobacco stuffed into suitcases and pans around his home, a court heard.

Officials from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) discovered the huge haul after they raided Colin Wilson’s house in Springwell Estate, Sunderland.

Sunderland magistrates were told they also found £3,500 in his wallet, with some cash hidden in a mirror.

The 58-year-old is believed to have been in possession of the goods - which cost the taxpayer almost £10,000 in unpaid duty - between June and November last year.

He admitted an offence under the Customs and Excise Management Act.

Prosecutor Jeanette Smith said HMRC officials carried out a search at his home in Sackville Road, on November 1.

She added: “During interview, he admitted the cigarettes and tobacco were his and they were duty non-paid and that he had been dealing in duty non-paid goods since June 2012.”

The estimated loss to the Government of the duty on the cigarettes was more than £6,447, and the tobacco £3,515.

Peter Thubron, mitigating, said Wilson had not realised the full implications of his illegal trade.

He said: “I was not aware that there was a huge amount of tax on cigarettes, in some cases 50 to 60 per cent tax. I am surprised.

“When he became involved with it, he did not understand the damage it can do to the public purse or other people.

“For a while he thought it was a victimless crime. He now sees the damage that he did.

“He did not go into it aware, but he is now very aware.”

Mr Thuborn added that Wilson, who is a full-time carer for his 55-year-old disabled brother, was “very remorseful” for getting involved and would still be expected to pay his supplier for the goods HRMC had seized.

Magistrates handed down a 26-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. He must also pay £85 towards court costs and a victim surcharge of £165.

Speaking after the hearing, Jo Tyler, assistant director for criminal investigation at HMRC, said: “Colin Wilson admitted that he was supplying and selling duty free tobacco goods and despite still claiming Government benefits, he was earning a substantial criminal profit from his illegal activities.

“HMRC is committed to stamping out the problem of duty-free tobacco goods in the North East and across the UK and people who are involved in the sale or supply of duty free tobacco goods need to be aware that we are actively pursuing those involved in this type of crime.

“If you have information about anyone storing, distributing or selling duty-free cigarettes or hand-rolling tobacco, we urge you to contact our hotline on 0800 59 5000.”