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Three tobacco fraudsters who attempted to flood the UK with millions of 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 were caught with more than five million cigarettes in November 2016.

The men, from London, Nottingham and Poland, orchestrated the delivery and sale of counterfeit cigarettes worth more than £1.5m in unpaid duty, an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed.

On 27 November 2016, HMRC officers conducted a search 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.

During a separate search of a property linked to Hussain, in Perry Barr, Birmingham, officers found 200,000 illegal cigarettes and carrier bags containing £28,000 in cash, hidden in a hedge in the back garden. The cash and cigarettes were seized. Hussain was arrested at a hotel in Hertfordshire for his role in the scam.

Hussain, who masterminded the fraud, was responsible for sourcing the cigarettes and managing a network of couriers to collect the goods and distribute them to shops around the UK.

Hussain pleaded guilty in September 2020. Szewe and Dudczyk were convicted after a trial at Southwark Crown Court in July 2021.

Hussain was sentenced to 45 months in prison and Szewe and Dudczyk were both sentenced to 30 months. Dudczyk was also disqualified from driving in the UK for 20 months.

Carmine di Franco, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Hussain was the head of an organised criminal network intent on flooding our streets with millions of illegal cigarettes.

“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.

“We also encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788887.”

HMRC is searching for 46-year-old Andrzej Watroba, who is wanted in connection with the smuggling plot.