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Consumer news, Trading Standards prosecutions

Pensioner imprisoned for selling illicit tobacco

Posted on: 16 April 2021

A 75-year-old Plymouth man has been sentenced to an 18-month custodial sentence, half to be served in prison, for selling illicit tobacco and evading £162,000 in duty.

Patrick White, of Hartley Court, Plymouth, was sentenced at Plymouth Crown Court on Friday 16 April.

White’s arrest followed an investigation and entry warrants drawn by Plymouth Trading Standards, now part of the new Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Joint Service.

Officers from Plymouth Trading Standards, assisted by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), executed an entry warrant on a storage container in Saltash, Cornwall, which was leased by White and also at his home address.

During the search of the storage container, Trading Standards relinquished their control of the operation and HMRC officers seized 344,600 cigarettes, 242kg of hand-rolling tobacco, and 327 litres of alcohol, worth a total of £162,370.43 in evaded excise duty. The tobacco goods were later found to be a mixture of counterfeit and genuine duty-free product, not destined for the UK market.

A quantity of cash was also seized from the storage unit. Patrick White arrived at the storage unit during the search and was arrested by HMRC investigators. Further cash was seized. Both cash seizures totalled £36,390, and the money has been forfeited.

Patrick White pleaded guilty to the offences at Plymouth Crown Court on 12 April 2021 and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment (half to be served in prison) at the same court on 16 April 2021.

Alex Fry, Operations Manager, Intelligence & Investigations, at Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service said: “This investigation was conducted by Plymouth City Council Trading Standards, which has now joined with Devon, Somerset and Torbay to form a new joint service, and HMRC. We will not tolerate the supply of illegal tobacco and work closely with our partners in HMRC to stamp it out.”

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) spokesperson, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco and alcohol will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders. We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to report it online or call the HMRC Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”