Scunthorpe man jailed for evading £30,000 in tobacco taxes and selling fake DVDs
TRADING standards bosses have vowed to stay tough on fraudsters after a man was jailed for two years for evading £30,000 of tobacco taxes and flogging fake DVDs.
Robert Smith, 48, of Ashby Road, Scunthorpe, was part of a "business-like cottage industry" which involved making and selling DVDs, as well as selling smuggled cigarettes and rolling tobacco.
Grimsby Crown Court heard how Smith – who co-ran the Granny Annie's coffee shop in Crowle – would travel overseas twice a year and bring large quantities of cigarettes and tobacco back into the country without paying tax.
Miles Bennett prosecuted the case on behalf of trading standards at North Lincolnshire Council. He said officers raided Smith's home in March 2011 and unearthed 49,190 cigarettes and 134 kilos of rolling tobacco hidden in the loft.
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The items had a retail value of £36,000 and would make at least £20,000 on the black market. Investigations later revealed the cigarettes and tobacco represented about £14,000 of evaded tax.
Mr Bennett said Smith also had 1,034 illegal DVDs in his home, as well as computer programs and DVD burners for creating them. This equated to about £8,500 of losses from the film industry.
Mr Bennett said Smith told officers the items of tobacco and cigarettes were "for personal use".
But a list of people he is believed to have sold them to was also uncovered, along with a list of his DVD customers.
Mr Bennett said: "I would describe it as a cottage industry. There were five defendants to begin with, but it was not massively sophisticated."
He said Smith had been stopped by customs officers on two occasions after his trips abroad but managed to evade detection on others.
He was caught trying to bring 3,200 cigarettes into Humberside Airport in August 2009 and 54 kilos of rolling tobacco were seized from him at London's St Pancras Station in December that year.
Smith admitted one count of evaded tobacco duty and four counts related to counterfeit DVDs.
Jeremy Lindsay, mitigating, said: "My client co-operated with officials when his property was raided and told them they would find the items in the loft. If he had not done this, there is no guarantee it would have been discovered."
Judge Jeremy Richardson QC told Smith he believed about £30,000 of tobacco tax had been evaded by him between 2009 and 2011.
He added: "In a civilised country, everybody who should pay taxes should indeed pay taxes, either as direct taxation or as duty on items purchased. Taxes pay for our schools, hospitals, the police, social services and a whole range of crucial services."