Haulage company boss gets 18 months


A haulage company boss who was caught smuggling 2,000kg of hand-rolling tobacco into the UK, evading £442,360 in duty, has been jailed for 18 months.

Border Force officers stopped a truck at Dover on 12 September last year. Officers searched the trailer and found tobacco hidden in boxes marked “tents”. The driver, Attila Tanko, 44, from Hungary, was arrested, the tobacco seized and the matter referred to HMRC.

Tanko, owner of the Hungary-based Chariots of Fire KFT haulage company, claimed he was “tapped up” at a rest stop in Luxembourg by a man who asked him to deliver the tobacco in exchange for €2,000. He pleaded guilty on 13 September and was sentenced on 17 December at Maidstone Crown Court.

Paul Morgan, director of Border Force, South East and Europe, said: “This is just one example of the crucial work that Border Force officers do every day to help keep the UK safe and protect the economy. Detections such as this are testament to their dedication and expertise.

“We will continue to work with HMRC to bring those engaged in smuggling to justice.”

Truck driver sentenced for cigarette smuggling


A truck driver who tried to smuggle more than 5 million illegal cigarettes into the UK hidden behind bags of soil, has been sent to prison for four-and-a-half years.

Sabastiaan Gahr, of Kinrooi, Belgium, who was convicted of excise fraud at Grimsby Crown Court, was found with illegal cigarettes worth £1,379,248 in unpaid duty at King George Docks in Hull. The 41-year-old was caught when Border Force officers stopped his vehicle as he arrived into the UK from Rotterdam on 13 June 2018.

Gahr said he was delivering soil and furniture to a garden centre in Liverpool but officers found 5,200,000 Business Royal cigarettes when they searched the truck. The cigarettes were packed in cardboard boxes, stacked on pallets, wrapped in white plastic and hidden behind bags of soil.

Gahr told officers he did not know about the cigarettes and was paid €500 to drive the HGV by a man he met in a pub. He was arrested and the cigarettes were seized. The case was passed to HMRC for investigation.

Eden Noblett, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “This was a shocking attempt to flood the UK with millions of illegal cigarettes. Gahr thought his haul of illegal goods would go unnoticed and he could make some easy money. But now he is paying the price behind bars.

“Trade in illegal tobacco undermines legitimate businesses and starves our public services of vital funds.”