Gang of five evaded import tax on £370k of tobacco

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A judge has jailed five men for their part in a “highly organised” scheme arranging the importation of hand-rolled tobacco to Yorkshire on which duty had not been paid.

Customs officers believed the Doncaster-based group organised the importation of at least 2,100 kilogrammes of tobacco, which was liable for import tax of more than £370,000.

Craig Hassall, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court that on November 8, 2012 officers raided a unit at Ready Steady Store in Doncaster and found that Ronald Edwards, described as the leader of the conspiracy, had just taken delivery of over 1,800 kilogrammes of tobacco.

The unit had only been rented that morning with the lorry carrying the tobacco led to the storage facility by Russell Scherdel, a son-in-law of Edwards. Mr Hassall said Edwards was “ably assisted” in arranging the importation by his son, Lee Edwards and two sons-in-law Scherdel and Paul Higgins.

The delivery note for the pallets described the contents in cardboard boxes as “discount/ex display clothing.” The recommended retail price for the tobacco inside would have been at least £462,000 with duty evaded on that shipment alone £295,398.

As a result the home of Ronald Edwards in Lords Close, Doncaster was searched and officers discovered a tobacco packing plant in his garage which included wooden racks of the size to hold a tobacco pouch while it was being filled.

Ronald Edwards, 64 was jailed for two years. Lee Edwards, 37 of Grange Road, Cantley; Higgins, 46 of Chantry Close, Cantley and Scherdel, 51 of Warnington Drive, Bessecarr, Doncaster and Ainger, 33 of Suffolk Way, Hornchurch, Essex were each jailed for two-and-a-half years. All five admitted conspiracy to evade duty on hand-rolling tobacco.