Three Co Armagh men caught smuggling millions of cigarettes into the UK have been ordered to pay more than £1m.
Brothers Patrick (47), Plunkett (44) and Benedict Mackle (40) from Moy, Co Armagh tried to smuggle almost six million cigarettes into the UK in January 2003 and attempted to evade more than £1.1m in duty.
Yesterday, at Belfast Crown Court, the trio were ordered to pay out. They also each received suspended jail sentences.
Patrick Mackle, of Armagh Road, was ordered to pay £518,387, Benedict Mackle, of Main Street, £259,193 and Plunkett Mackle, of Clover Hill, also £259,193, all by April 29, 2009.
Each faces a default sentence if payment is not made by the due date – three years for Plunkett and Benedict Mackle, who both received two and half year sentences in December 2007, and five years for Patrick Mackle, who received a three year sentence.
Last year, former Customs Officer James Anthony Sloan of La Salle Park, Belfast was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, suspended for five years, for his involvement in the same smuggling operation. John Whiting, an assistant director with Revenue and Customs said: “This result sends a significant message to anyone tempted to smuggle illegal tobacco products.
“HM Revenue and Customs will seek to recover any financial gain from those who involve themselves in excise fraud and will work with our partner agencies in the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) to stamp out the illegal trade in smuggled tobacco.
“Tobacco smuggling costs the taxpayer nearly £3bn a year in lost revenue, undermining honest retail businesses, whose trade is damaged by those undercutting them by evading tax.
“I would encourage anyone with information relating to smuggled goods, or who knows of any suspicious activity, should contact HMRC's hotline on 0800 59 5000.”