Armagh man is jailed for bid to flood the UK with illegal cigs
An Armagh man who was part of a gang that attempted to flood the streets of the United Kingdom with millions of smuggled cigarettes has been jailed for five years.
Sean Dolan (43), from Annaghmare Road near Crossmaglen, and three other men from England smuggled more than 17 million non-UK duty paid cigarettes and 1.4 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco from Southeast Asia from January 2014.
It is estimated that the duty and VAT evaded totalled more than £4 million.
Cigarettes and tobacco were seized at the Port of Felixstowe in September 2014, when two shipping containers were stopped by Border Force officials.
The goods were described as furniture on paperwork.
During a search of Dolan's home, 949,600 American Legend brand cigarettes were found in the garage.
The fraudsters tried to hide the profits by buying high-value vehicles and selling them on.
They set up and fronted a UK-based business and hijacked the identity of a legitimate firm in order to launder the proceeds and avoid paying VAT.
The gang bought 102 vehicles totalling £1,138,029 - more than £500,000 of which was paid in cash.
The money was then deposited into the businesses.
One of the firms received a further £308,000 in cash over a seven-month period in 2015.
Dolan and the other men - Ian Pritchard (51), Paul Smith (47) and Ian Hindle (39) - were jailed yesterday at Liverpool Crown Court.
Antony Capon, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: "This gang was aiming to undercut legitimate retailers with this large quantity of smuggled cigarettes and tobacco.
"They thought that by setting up a fake business and funneling cash through it they would somehow stay under HMRC's radar.
"They were wrong and it was foolish of them to believe they could get away with committing such a large-scale fraud."