A lorry driver who smuggled more than 147 million cigarettes into the UK hidden behind crates of rotting pears has been jailed for almost seven years. The cigarettes were worth an estimated £32 million in lost duty.
HM Revenue and Customs officers foiled Hans Verhoeven’s plan in July 2014 when they stopped him at The Junction 26 Truck Stop, off the M25 near Waltham Abbey, in Essex.
The 45-year-old told officers he was transporting fruit and bread, but when they opened the container they found vast quantities of cigarettes.
Verhoeven was arrested and later admitted making at least 18 smuggling runs in the past, each time carrying a similar load packed behind crates of pears.
Police are appealing for anyone with information to come forward after almost 34,000 cigarettes were recovered from a layby near Wareham.
The haul, which was reported to police by a dog walker at 9.10am on Thursday, was collected by officers and will be referred to HM Revenue and Customs for further investigation.
The consignment was found in a layby along the A35 at Bloxworth, near Wareham.
No arrests have been made.
Sixteen people have charged with plotting to steal more than £2 million of cigarettes from their company at Gatwick Airport.
The 15 men and one woman have been charged jointly with stealing duty free cigarettes worth a total of £2,432,665 from Gate Gourmet, a business that supplies airlines at the airport.
They have been charged with conspiracy to steal from their employer and money laundering. They have all been released on bail to appear at Crawley Magistrates' Court on 6 May.
The sixteen people have been charged with conspiracy to steal from their employer and money laundering. They have all been released on bail to appear at Crawley Magistrates' Court on 6 May.
The charges follow a long running investigation by Sussex Police into the large-scale theft of duty free items at Gatwick.
The operation was run with the support of Gate Gourmet, which alerted Sussex Police to the issue after discovering irregularities with its stock. Suspects were arrested in a series of raids in July 2013.
A further two people - a 39-year-old man from Crawley and a 32-year-old man from Crawley - are still on bail as part of the investigation.
Detectives at Shirley are appealing for witness after burglars drove a vehicle through the front roller shutters of Martins Newsagents at Lordshill Centre. The burglary occurred at about 3.20am on Friday, January 3, when a green Rover Metro smashed through the window.
Three men are believed to be involved in the theft of up to £3,000 worth of cigarettes. The Metro, which was a stolen vehicle, was abandoned at the scene, and the robbers are believed to have left in a stolen blue Ford Escort van.
The van was later found abandoned in Bindon Close, Shirley Warren. The men are believed to have left Bindon Close in a white Ford Escort, which was found later in Coxford Close.
Two Southampton supermarkets were raided by cigarette thieves on Boxing Day.
The burglaries took place within hours of each other in the early hours of Thursday 26th December.
At around 1.54am, thieves forced a fire exit door by the main entrance of Teco in Tebourba Way and forced open shutters at the cigarette kiosk and took an unknown quantity of stock.
Another break-in happened at 4.30am at Sainsbury's in Lordshill where offenders attempted to steal cigarettes but left empty handed.
On both occasions a motorbike was seen in the areas at the time of the break-ins.
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Around £1,000 worth of cigarettes were stolen from a Southampton shop.
Dale Valley Stores on Dale Road, Shirley, was broken into in the early hours of Thursday 15th August.
Police want to hear from anyone who saw or heard anyone acting suspiciously around the area between 2am and 2.40am.
Border Force officers have foiled an attempt to smuggle 30 million cigarettes into the UK through the port of Southampton.
The haul was made after a container shipped from China, supposed to be carrying wind turbine parts, was stopped.
The container was scanned in an x-ray machine that showed cigarettes inside.
Two further containers were found to be linked to the first one. Together they had a total of 19.4 million Lambert & Butlers and 10.9 million Regal cigarettes, all of which are believed to be counterfeit.
Andy Lumb, from Border Force, said: “This was cigarette smuggling on an industrial scale so I am delighted that our officers have prevented this haul of contraband from reaching our streets.
“Tobacco smuggling is not victimless. It is effectively stealing from the public purse, at a time when the country can least afford it."
It's thought if the haul had not been intercepted it would have cost the Treasury about £8,064,000 in unpaid excise duty.
A freight manager who hid over 14 million cigarettes in lorries carrying fruit and vegetables has been jailed.
It's thought Barry Wood, 45, from Maidstone, evaded an estimated £2.5 million in duty and VAT for the cigarrettes. He was jailed for six and a half years.
Romulus Boca, a Romanian national, also received a three year prison sentence after he was caught driving a lorry loaded with millions of smuggled cigarettes.
Customs officers discovered the hauls in two separate lorry loads at Dover Docks in July and November 2010.
In total, 14.6 million cigarettes were seized.
Newsagents and supermarkets are being advised to review security measures, following a series of high value cigarette thefts in Southampton. Acting Sergeant Russell Smith, of Southampton Central, said: “We are advising local businesses to ensure they have adequate security measures in place "
One Midanbury business installed ground bolts on exterior shutters after two cigarette burglaries in April. They lost £30,000 of stock. A third attempt on June 28 was unsuccessful because of the bolts.
Any business owners who want crime prevention advice from police can contact 101 to ask for a visit from crime prevention officers. Police also would like to hear from anyone who has information about these thefts or who has been offered low price cigarettes or items they suspect are stolen.