Neasden man jailed after joining forces with cigarette smuggling gang
PUBLISHED: 12:07 27 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:06 27 June 2019
A Neasden man who joined forces with the ringleader of a smuggling gang caught with more than nine million illegal cigarettes and £356,185 in cash has been jailed.
Daniel Pascaru, 37, of Tanfield Avenue, was sentenced to 32 months for acting as a link between buyers and suppliers of dodgy goods on June 26.
Northampton Crown Court heard that ringleader Oleg Cretu, 37, of Northampton, was investigated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) after the cigarettes and used bank notes were discovered during a search of an industrial unit he rented in Wellingborough in September 2018.
HMRC officers seized cash and 9,510,360 mixed branded cigarettes worth £3.4 million in unpaid duty from the unit. Cretu, Pascaru and two other smugglers, Sebastian Hanczur of Dorset and Alan Ali of Derby, used a nearby car park as a base to meet customers and take payment, and then leave them there as they collected illicit cigarettes from the unit.
Their scam came undone after they were caught acting suspiciously in the car park. The gang led officers to the unit full of cigarettes and cash, hidden in cupboards and carrier bags.
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Pascaru pleaded guilty to acquiring possession of dutiable goods with fraudulent intent and possessing criminal property.
Cretu was jailed for 38 months, Ali was sentenced to 16 months and
Hanczur was sentenced to a 15-month community order, 200 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £1,200.
Simon Kiefer, assistant director of HMRC's fraud investigation service, said: "Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market. This is theft from the taxpayer, denying public services much needed money.
"We urge anyone with information about this, or any other tax fraud, to contact HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887."