Denis Connolly, of Southport, organised over 130 smuggling trips for himself and five others, using discounted staff tickets to travel. The gang hid cigarettes and tobacco, worth £180,000 in evaded duty and taxes, in their luggage.
Connolly and his accomplice, Terence Steele, of Liverpool, made large purchases of duty-free tobacco in Spain and Portugal, which the gang then smuggled back to the UK. The smuggling gang consisted of five men and one woman. They were caught out when three of them were stopped by Border Force officers at Liverpool John Lennon Airport on two separate dates.
Zoe Ellerbeck, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said, “Airline employees hold a position of trust and abusing this privilege is a serious matter. Connolly organised subsidised travel purely for smuggling purposes. There are no excuses for smuggling, whatever your status, and HMRC are determined to recover stolen taxes.
“Tobacco fraud costs honest taxpayers more than £2.1bn a year, undercutting honest businesses, and drawing people into wider criminality.”
Connolly and Steele were each issued with confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act at Manchester Crown Court. Connolly received a confiscation order for £348,705 and Steele received one for £111,671.
After assessment of their available assets, Connolly was ordered to repay £21,543 within three months or 15 months will be added to his jail sentence, and Steele was ordered to repay £109,297 within three months or serve two years in jail.