25 years for smuggling gang

2 Aug 2006 03:45 PM

Seven people, including two former Customs officers, were today jailed for a total of 25 years for their involvement in the smuggling of cigarettes and alcohol worth over £7 million, following a successful HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigation.

Paul Weaver and Steven Phillips formerly Customs employees at Ramsgate port were sentenced to four years and four and half years respectively after pleading guilty to conspiracy to fraudulently evade the duty chargeable on excise goods. Weaver and Phillips abused their position to allow vehicles into the UK which they knew to containe illicit goods on which excise duty was payable.

John Cooper, HMRC Senior Investigation Officer said:

"HMRC is committed to tackling criminality wherever it is found. It is particularly serious when Customs officers betray the trust society places in them. Corrupt officers are rare but we will not tolerate corruption of any sort. We are pleased with the sentences handed down which should serve as a deterrent to anyone considering involvement in such crimes."

Brian Murray a businessman described by the judge as "the Hub of the conspiracy" and who managed the smuggling gang was sentenced to five and a half years.

Luke Whitworth who was the link between the corrupt officers and the smugglers was sentenced to three and half years.

Notes to editors

1. Charges:

Count 1

CONSPIRACY TO CONTRAVENE SECTION 170 OF THE CUSTOMS & EXCISE MANAGEMENT ACT 1979, contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

PAUL WEAVER, STEVEN PHILLIPS, LUKE WHITWORTH, BRIAN MURRAY, DAVID ELVY, RICHARD PUSEY, between the 1st day of January 2003 and the 10th day of December 2003, conspired with each other and other persons, known and unknown, fraudulently to evade the duty chargeable on excise goods, whether imposed by the Tobacco Products Duty Act 1979 and/or the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979, in contravention of section 170(2)(a) of the Customs & Excise Management Act 1979.

Count 2

BEING KNOWINGLY CONCERNED IN THE FRAUDULENT EVASION OR ATTEMPT AT EVASION OF DUTY CHARGABLE ON GOODS, contrary to section 170(2)(a) of the Customs & Excise Management Act 1979.

RICHARD PUSEY, between the 27th day of August 2003 and the 7th day of September 2003, in relation to certain excise goods, namely a quantity of spirits, was knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion or attempt at evasion of the duty chargeable thereon imposed by the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979.

2. The full details of those sentenced are:

* Paul Weaver, DOB: 208/08/70. Address: Not disclosed. Occupation: Former Customs Officer. Four years imprisonment.

* Steven Phillips, DOB: 30/09/71. Address: Montefiore Avenue, Ramsgate Kent, CT11 8BE. Occupation: Former Customs Officer. Four and a half years imprisonment.

* Brian Murray, DOB: 20/01/65. Address: Botany Road, Margate, Kent, CT10 3SB. Occupation: Director. Five and a half years imprisonment.

* Luke Whitworth, DOB: 17/01/74. Address: Park Avenue, Broadstairs, Kent. Three and half years imprisonment.

* David Elvy, DOB: 03/02/57. Address: King' End Farmhouse, White House Drove, Sandwich, Kent, CT13 9JH. Occupation: Transport Manager. Four years imprisonment.

* Paul Farmer, DOB: 15/03/68. Address: Autumn Lodge, Abridge Road, Theydon Bois, Essex CM16 7NN and 418 Manchester Road, Isle of Dogs, London. Three and a half years imprisonment.

* Richard Pusey, DOB 02/05/52. Address: 5 Castle Street, Queenborough, Sheerness, Kent, ME11 5AS. Occupation: Lorry Driver for Arnold. Nine months imprisonment.

3. The majority of the gang were arrested 9 December 2003.

4. The Revenue & Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) was created by Royal Assent on 18 April 2005. An independent prosecuting authority, RCPO reports directly to the Attorney General, and is responsible for prosecuting some of the largest drug and fraud cases in the UK. For further information about RCPO, please contact their press office on 020 7865 5666.

5. Internal Governance [IG] is a new function within HMRC which brings together civil, disciplinary and criminal investigations in respect of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) staff. IG's primary objective is to ensure that HMRC's staff adhere to the highest levels of professional integrity and that any breaches of these standards are tackled robustly, efficiently and fairly. IG also acts as the primary liaison point between the Department and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

6. It is the stated policy of HM Revenue & Customs to pursue prosecution in ALL cases where an HMRC employee is involved in any way criminal. Such cases represent a breach of trust of the highest order and this is reflected in the severity of the sentences handed down by the judiciary.

7. Confiscation's orders in respect of Weaver and Phillips were made today in the sum of £10,000 each. If this amount is not paid there is a further default of six months imprisonment.

8. Confiscation hearings will be held at a later date.

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Media Relations Team

Website www.hmrc.gov.uk