Belfast Telegraph

Trader smuggled 22,000 cigarettes for shop

By George Jackson

A shopkeeper caught smuggling almost 22,000 illegal cigarettes told the police after his arrest that the cigarettes were for his personal use to feed his 100-a-day smoking habit.

John McCloskey (50), from The Branch in Londonderry, pleaded guilty at the city's magistrates court to smuggling the cigarettes into the city from Co Donegal.

District Judge Barney McElholm was told that police stopped McCloskey as he was driving a Ford Transit van along Strand Road on June 27, 2012.

Inside the van they found 21,240 illegal cigarettes and a quantity of illegal tobacco. In a further search of the van, McCloskey's Hazelbank Stores shop and his then home the police found a further 520 illegal cigarettes, £14,342 in cash and €12,186 (£10,063) in cash. A prosecution solicitor said the loss of revenue in relation to the illegal cigarettes was £5,710.

The District Judge said he accepted that McCloskey was at the bottom end of the chain but he had engaged in a large scale smuggling operation. He imposed a three-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months.

Belfast Telegraph

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