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Stockport man smuggles smoke in mirrors

A Stockport man who illegally smuggled a tonne of tobacco into the UK hidden in furniture, mirrors and handicrafts has been sentenced.

Semi-retired airport engineer Brian Hulme, 64 appeared at Manchester Crown Court following an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), where he was jailed for 16 months.

Mike O’Grady, Assistant Director, HM Revenue & Customs said:

“Brian Hulme thought he would get rich quick by smuggling tobacco. He had no interest or consideration for the honest, local businesses he would have undercut. Tobacco smuggling isn’t a harmless fiddle and HMRC will continue its efforts in stamping out this illegal trade. Anyone with information about those involved in tobacco, cigarette or alcohol smuggling can contact our hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

On 19 December 2010, a container arrived at Felixstowe from Semarang, Indonesia. The paperwork showed the contents to be wooden furniture and handicrafts. On opening, UK Border Agency officers found one tonne of tobacco packed in 50g pouches, concealed within decorative urns and hidden in the backs of mirrors. UKBA referred the case to HMRC who quickly established that Hulme had arranged the importation. He was arrested and questioned.

Hulme claimed that an acquaintance named John had met him in Indonesia and enlisted his assistance in shipping the tobacco into the UK. He claimed that he was to be paid a fee for a successful importation and admitted to arranging a 12-month rental agreement on a lock up storage facility. He had made all payments – including shipping fees and rental fees – himself.

Hulme was subsequently charged with evading excise duty. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and returned to court for sentencing.

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