Driver who smuggled fake cigarettes in grapes convicted

A delivery driver who smuggled more than 8,000,000 untaxed, counterfeit cigarettes in pallets of grapes has been found guilty of tax evasion, says the UK Crow Prosecution Service (CPS).

Hungarian national Milkos Sokorai (48, pictured) claimed he was delivering fruit but the smuggling attempt was discovered when Border Force officers stopped his vehicle at the Port of Dover.

The amount of illicit cigarettes he was smuggling would have been worth almost £4m ($5.2m), with £2.5m tax due to the HMRC, according to Shilpa Chauhan, a prosecutor for the CPS’ specialist fraud division.

When questioned, Sokorai provided documentation for the delivery and denied any knowledge of the illicit cigarettes found in the refrigerated trailer, insisting that he was set up.

However, the prosecution was able to use pictures that Sokorai had taken inside the trailer, as well as messages he had sent when he was stopped at the border, to show he knew the cigarettes were in the delivery.

The documentation that Sokorai had relied on was found to have been fraudulent, the specified destination company were not expecting a delivery and the company logo was unofficial.

“The evidence from his phone and the documents gathered as part of the investigation have been essential to proving beyond doubt that Sokorai was willingly smuggling the cigarettes and evading tax,” she added.

After a short trial at Maidstone Crown Court, Sokorai has today been found guilty of fraudulent evasion of duty.

Fake or counterfeit cigarettes are made to look like popular UK brands but typically have foreign health warnings and no picture health warnings, while non-duty paid, or bootlegged cigarettes, are UK brands usually brought into the country from abroad and sold illegally.

They typically contain even higher levels of toxic ingredients such as tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide than genuine brand-name products. They also pose a greater fire risk as they do not include designs that ensure that a lit cigarette will self-extinguish if not actively smoked.

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