Three men who were caught with more than five million illegal cigarettes have been jailed for a total of eight-and-a-half years.
Adil Hussain, 42, Grzegorz Szewe, 49, and Dariusz Dudczyk, 47, were part of organised crime networks that operated in London and the Midlands, and orchestrated the delivery and sale of counterfeit cigarettes worth more than £1.5 million in unpaid duty, an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed.
Hussain, from London, was responsible for sourcing the cigarettes and managing a network of couriers to collect the goods and distribute them to shops around the UK. He pleaded guilty in September last year.
Szewe and Dudczyk, from Nottingham and Poland respectively, were convicted after a trial at Southwark Crown Court, which yesterday (25 November) handed out sentences to all three. Hussain was sentenced to 45 months in prison, and Szewe and Dudczyk to 30 months.
“Hussain was the head of an organised criminal network intent on flooding our streets with millions of illegal cigarettes,” Carmine di Franco, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said.
“These kinds of cigarettes come at a cost as they undermine legitimate traders, take vital revenue away from our public services and can all too easily find their way into the hands of children.”
HMRC seized the illegal cigarettes in November 2016 during a raid of a self-storage unit in Sherwood, Nottingham, after witnessing a lorry being unloaded there the night before. A search of the unit, rented under an alias, uncovered 4,827,400 counterfeit cigarettes.
Szewe was caught red-handed driving out of the car park in a van loaded with boxes containing a further 601,600 counterfeit cigarettes branded Marlboro, Regal and L&M. He was arrested along with Dudczyk, who was parked in a lorry nearby.
A separate search of a property linked to Hussain, in Perry Barr, Birmingham, led to the haul of 200,000 illegal cigarettes and carrier bags containing £28,000 in cash, hidden in a hedge in the back garden. Hussain was arrested at a hotel in Hertfordshire for his role in the scam.
HMRC continues to pursue 46-year-old Andrzej Watroba, the remaining gang member who is wanted in connection with the smuggling plot.