Two men, who were caught red-handed trading in smuggled counterfeit tobacco, have each been been jailed for 20 months.
Hasan Koc, 50, and Ivo Pocheliev, 40, were under surveillance by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) when they met at a hotel car park in North Stifford, Essex, in March 2014. Shortly afterwards Pocheliev left and went to a self storage unit at a nearby industrial estate, filling his van with illicit tobacco before returning to the hotel car park.
HMRC officers detained Pocheliev as he attempted to sell the illicit goods to Koc. A search of the van and self storage unit revealed almost 610kg of Golden Virginia hand rolling tobacco, worth an estimated £105,000 in lost taxes and duty. Both men were then arrested.
During a search of Koc’s home address 124,200 Marlboro Red cigarettes and 6.6kgs of hand rolling tobacco were found and seized, worth around £35,000 in lost revenue.
Officers also found 12,400 Euros in Pocheliev’s rucksack and documents confirming he was renting the self storage unit. The cash was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
David Margree, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Tobacco smuggling is damaging the British economy, depriving the public of around £2.1bn a year – money that could be invested in our local services. It has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers having to compete with the black market economy. And people purchasing so-called bargain priced tobacco have no idea they are buying counterfeit goods.”