Anthony Hucklesby and Carolina Bracken, instructed by Kim Holden of the CPS Specialist Fraud Division, secured the conviction of nine defendants charged with the fraudulent evasion of duty in the sum of over £667,000. The defendants were part of a network which distributed smuggled cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco throughout the county of Kent and beyond. During the course of an investigation over a period of more than seven years, officers of HMRC and other agencies uncovered a network of shops with sophisticated concealments in which substantial quantities of contraband were hidden. Further investigation led to the discovery of associated storage facilities and analysis of telephone records shed light on the roles of the respective defendants, which ranged from that of the principal organiser, to his trusted lieutenants, to the shop workers “on the ground” who sold contraband for substantial profit. In total, well over two million cigarettes and almost half a tonne of hand rolling tobacco were seized. Five of the defendants were convicted by a jury at Southwark Crown Court following a two-month trial. A further four defendants pleaded guilty.
The five defendants who contested the trial were responsible for organising and managing the network and received combined sentences of over 16 years. The remaining defendants received either suspended sentences, community orders or financial penalties.
The case was widely reported: