Leeds houses used for £3m tobacco fraud ring

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Customs officers foiled a £3million tobacco smuggling ring using addresses across Britain - including two houses in Leeds - after one of the crooks’ packages was damaged in transit.

Leeds Crown Court heard United Parcel Service (UPS) contacted the UK Border Force after discovering that a parcel from Germany, rather than holding glass products as claimed, was filled with 76 kilogrammes of Amber Leaf hand rolled tobacco.

In the previous seven days alone, UPS had delivered 24 similar packages to an address in Longroyd Avenue, Leeds and when that was raided £71,000 in cash and boxes of tobacco were seized.

Andrew Haslam, prosecuting, told the court that the day after that seizure, another 12 boxes arrived at UPS for delivery to the house. Inquiries revealed a total of 244 parcels had been sent to the address between September 7 and December 2, 2015 evading duty of more than £1million.

The address had been rented by Emmanuel Cieply using a false Polish identity document and it was discovered using that or another alias he had also rented properties in Liverpool and Bradford.

Mr Haslam said further inquiries also discovered the smugglers had also rented another property in Leeds and houses in Paisley, Scotland and Sheerness in Kent for their deliveries.

He told the court around 500 packages had been delivered to an address in Halsbury Road, Liverpool between October 2014 when Cieply rented it using the name Marek Witkowski and mid July 2015. Duty evaded at that address was estimated at between £1.5 and £1.7million.

At the address in Temple Street, Bradford there were 96 parcels delivered on which it was estimated duty evaded was about £300,000.

Mr Haslam said UPS made 12 deliveries involving 76 parcels to a house in Richmond Street, Sheerness amounting a further £300,000 of duty evaded while a house in Paisley had received four parcels with £18,000 of duty evaded and another address at Harlech Avenue, Leeds had received parcels on which £7,000 duty should have been paid.

Mark Foley representing Cieply said he had been in Britain for about seven years initially working in a car wash in London.

His employer there, a man called Michael, had been the person who provided false identity documents when he lost his own.

It was that man who also directed where he then go to rent houses and told him to sign for deliveries. Apart from his accommodation, food and some pocket money, he had not made anything from the crime. Cieply, 57, admitted conspiracy to evade duty and using false identity documents was jailed for 38 months.

The court heard two other men have also been jailed in Germany including “Michael” and others are still being 
sought.

Jailing him Recorder Joanne Kidd said those involved had evaded “an enormous amount of duty” through their enterprise. The fact he was involved with three addresses confirmed “you had more than a minimal role.”

Paula Dillon, President of Leeds Chamber Commerce.

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