A truck driver who tried to smuggle 1.3 tonnes of tobacco into the UK has been sentenced to two years and three months in prison following an HMRC investigation.
Valentin Atanasov, 45, of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, was stopped at the Port of Dover on 7 February 2018. A Border Force sniffer dog found his legitimate truck load of polythene bags also contained 1.3 tonnes of The Turner hand-rolling tobacco.
The vehicle’s tachograph showed he had made an unauthorised stop at an industrial estate in Luxembourg to pick up the tobacco. The duty payable on the tobacco was £286,428.
Atanasov was charged with the fraudulent evasion of excise duty contrary to Section 170 (2) of the Customs & Excise Management Act 1979. On 30 July 2018, at Maidstone Crown Court, he pleaded guilty to the charge.
HMRC will apply to the courts for €2,200 (£1,970) cash seized at the time to be forfeited to the Crown under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Paul Morgan, director of Border Force South East and Europe said: “This was a significant seizure.
"By stopping the shipment our officers have starved those responsible of the proceeds of their criminality. The black market cheats honest traders and it is effectively stealing from the public purse. People tempted by cheap cigarettes and tobacco should think again.”
Tom Hunnisett, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Tobacco smuggling undermines legitimate businesses that play by the rules and costs the UK around £2.5bn a year, money that could be used to fund vital public services.”