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Issue:- 17 April 2014

£28m cigarette smuggling gang jailed

7 men have been jailed after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) smashed a £28 million cigarette smuggling conspiracy.  The gang imported low grade and counterfeit tobacco, which was then sold across northern England and Scotland. They were tracked down with the help of fingerprints and DNA found on discarded cans and bottles at sites where they had been transferring loads of cigarettes.

Ringleader Kamaran Khader was jailed for 6 years for his role in planning the criminal operation sourcing the cigarettes and tobacco and arranging their delivery. Once in the UK, the goods were transported to industrial storage sites in Blackburn, Oldham, Essex, Ascot and Slough.

Jo Tyler, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:- "Khader and his gang were heavily involved in the importation and supply of illegal cigarettes. These men were making substantial criminal profits at the expense of the taxpayer and, by feeding the black market, were depriving honest retailers of the chance to earn a living. But, they were lazy when it came to clearing up after themselves, leaving evidence behind that proved their involvement in this crime. Cigarette smuggling is a serious criminal offence and today's sentences reflect that. HMRC is committed to identifying and bringing to justice those who are involved in this type of crime."

The group came to the attention of HMRC in 2010 after officers found 390,000 cigarettes inside a transit van and a further 780,000 cigarettes hidden between sheets of insulation at an address in Blackburn.

The gang were also linked to a seizure of 840,000 Jin Ling cigarettes in September 2011 in Oldham and a shipment of nine million Golden Eagle cigarettes which arrived in Southampton in April 2012.

HMRC officers began to track the gang and observed a meeting between five of them in Essex in May 2012. They followed them to a local storage unit and discovered a further 1.4 million illegal cigarettes and a plastic carrier bag containing £84,400 in cash.

In January 2013 HMRC officers intercepted a van containing 270,000 cigarettes at an industrial unit in Ascot and in January 2013 they found 1.8 million duty free cigarettes at a site in Slough.  The men were jailed at Manchester Crown Court on Thursday, 10 April 2014 and Friday, 11 April 2014 by His Honour Judge Mansell QC.

Gateway route transformed

A KEY route in Liverpool has taken on a new look in recent months as it has been transformed with major environmental improvements.  The work at Great Howard Street is part of the Green Print for Growth programme which is aimed at improving the environmental quality of life in North Liverpool and attracting investors and visitors to the area.  The £200,000 works, which have taken place over the last three months, has seen large swathes of overgrown shrubs and trees removed, opening up views which have not been seen for years.  They have also involved the creation of a pocket park by Glegg Street and Stone Street, the painting of all street furniture, landscaping of planted areas, cleaning of stones and new signage installed.  During the work, metal railings, hidden from view because of overgrown greenery, were unearthed and they have been recycled for use in parts of the scheme while "a golden ribbon" of pathways has been created using a shale type material. The works was carried out by Glendale and housing associations Plus Dane and Riverside. The improvement works were undertaken for Plus Dane by its IN Environmental Services (INES) team, a social enterprise established to deliver grounds maintenance and gardening services across Merseyside and Cheshire.  Among the workforce were 10 apprentices, employed by Glendale, who were recruited through a Jobs fair organised by Stephen Twigg MP.  Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, recently inspected the work. He said;- "This has been a stunning transformation of Great Howard Street, one of the City's main arterial routes and the type of scheme we want to carry out throughout the City.  With the International Business Festival, the return of the giants and other events we are going to have millions of visitors to the City and it is extremely important that it looks at its best.  And as well as creating a much improved route, this work has also helped young people get on the employment ladder – it is a real success story for the City."

Joe Feeley, head of environment services at Plus Dane, said:- "This has been a big project for us to undertake and the transformation of the area has been remarkable. It is wonderful to see how the months of hard work have paid off and the amount of pride the INES team have taken in the job."

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