Justice served as £72,000 seized from illegal tobacco couple

Published
19.08.2016

A couple have pleaded guilty to several offences of selling illegal tobacco products and not paying excise duty.

Susan and Harold Bennett, 54 and 73, from Coleford, appeared at Gloucester Crown court yesterday.

Both entered guilty pleas in relation to three offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 and a further offence under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

The case came following a tip-off received by Gloucestershire Trading Standards Service in 2015 that the Bennetts were selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco from their home.

In July 2015, Trading Standards obtained a warrant to enter their home with the assistance of HM Revenue and Customs and the Police.

More than 100kg of tobacco was discovered on the premises and more than 750 packs of 20 cigarettes.

The estimated street value of the seized tobacco and cigarettes was over £22,000 and the amount of duty evaded was more than £20,000.

As well as the tobacco items seized, over £72,000 was seized in cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

John Cooper, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: "We will continue working with our partner agencies to disrupt the criminal trade in illicit tobacco, which costs the UK around £2.1 billion a year. We encourage anyone with information about the illegal supply, sale or distribution of tobacco to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000."

Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member for trading standards, said: "This is yet another example of people breaking the law and thinking they can get away with it.

"We have repeatedly warned against selling illegal products, do it and we will catch you and you will be punished."

Cllr Andrew Gravells, cabinet member for public health, said: "Not only is this illegal, but it is morally wrong. Selling illegal tobacco can be even more harmful to your health. We can't guarantee the tobacco has  the appropriate health warnings and we don't know what it contains. It's a major health concern and that's why Gloucestershire County Council's public health and trading standards teams are working together to help stamp out the problem."

The couple will be sentenced on the 27th September 2016 at Gloucester Crown court and a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002 will take place on the 17th November 2016 to look at the civil recovery of the proceeds made from selling the illegal products.

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