One of the leaders of a gang who helped set up an illegal tobacco factory capable of producing 625 million counterfeit cigarettes and five million pouches of fake hand rolling tobacco has been jailed for two years and six months.
Dutch national Marius Klein, who was recently extradited from Poland, was the last member of a 10 man gang involved in the £131 million tax fraud to be sentenced.
In co-ordinated searches at the gang’s three industrial units, in October 2009, HMRC investigators seized packaging for 43 million cigarettes in Chesterfield and cigarette manufacturing equipment destined for another criminal gang, capable of producing a potential 750 million cigarettes a year with an annual revenue loss of over £141 million in Blidworth.
Gary Lampon, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said: “The scale of this fraud was staggering. Klein had a key role in the conspiracy to launch a UK production facility, manufacturing counterfeit tobacco goods by the million.
“The gang’s ambition to progress from importing counterfeit cigarettes to manufacturing them on an industrial scale shows a determined ruthlessness to line their own pockets. They had no regard to the potential harm their criminal activity causes to individuals, communities and legitimate businesses.”
From his base in Poland Klein was directly responsible for organising the manufacture, production and sale of counterfeit cigarettes.
He also arranged the supply and delivery of counterfeit packaging for cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco and provided foreign engineers to install and service cigarette manufacturing machinery at the factories in Chesterfield and Laxton, Newark. Klein also attempted to make arrangements to purchase leaf tobacco to be supplied to the UK.
HMRC had already seized 1.25 million cigarettes from the gang in two separate operations. The first in June 2009, when one million cigarettes were seized in Rainworth, Nottingham, and the second in August 2009, when 250,000 cigarettes were seized at the Sherwood Business Park, Nottingham.
The gang had conspired to escalate from trading in these illegal cigarettes and tobacco, to manufacturing their own counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco on an industrial scale.