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Man jailed for seven years for smuggling cigarettes

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A man who was smuggling thousands of pounds of cigarettes and tobacco into the UK to avoid tax and make money has been jailed for seven years.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that Joseph Paul Honeyman, 63, of Croft Avenue in Middlesbrough, was smuggling the tobacco into the UK from early February to late March 2018. 

On 22 March 2018 HM Revenue and Customs officers attended the Thornaby Industrial Estate in Stockton-on-Tees and two ‘tobacco detection dogs’ identified an issue with Unit 10 on that Estate. 

Officers entered the Unit and found a total of 633,748 cigarettes and 404.90kg of hand-rolling tobacco which were seized. The duty that would have been owed on these products is £267,833. 

Bags and boxes containing tobacco
Smuggled items discovered by HMRC

Records indicated that the person renting the Unit was Mr Honeyman and he had been doing so since December 2015. 

While awaiting trial for this offence, his car was stopped by police at 2.30 am on 26 September 2019 on the A1 near Grantham. Inside the car was Honeyman and two women. Also, within the vehicle was: 

  • 25,000g of Turners Original Hand Rolling Tobacco
  • 49.5 litres of bottled wine (in boxes)
  • 1 Luggage Tag (London Stansted) 

The mobile phone records of all three were checked and there were significant text message conversations between them. It became clear that Honeyman had been directing/employing both women and others, to travel abroad, buy tobacco products and smuggle them into the UK. 

Later, on 26 September 2022, HMRC officers searched a property belonging to Mr Honeyman at 9 Croft Avenue Middlesbrough. During the search, the following items were seized:

  • 39,560 cigarettes (various brands)
  • 79.25kg of hand-rolling tobacco (various brands).

The total value of the duty evaded on the tobacco seized in the black Vauxhall Insignia and at 9 Croft Avenue was £36,618.38.  Mr Honeyman’s home address at 7 Croft Avenue was also searched and, in a safe was found £42,610.

On 27 January 2022 Mr Honeyman pleaded guilty to fraudulently evading duty and conspiring with others to evade duty. On Friday 28 Oct 2022 at Teesside Crown Court he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

Senior Crown Prosecutor Maqsood Khan of CPS Mersey Cheshire’s Fraud Unit, said: “Mr Honeyman was not simply selling contraband tobacco to his mates down the pub. He was running a very substantial commercial enterprise turning over hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

“Despite being arrested for similar offending, he carried on, running his illegal trade on a commercial scale.  After being arrested, he twisted and turned in every possible way to put the blame on to non-existent other people and told so many lies he tied himself in knots.

“The judge described Honeyman as a ‘pathologically dishonest man’ playing the leading role in this criminal enterprise. He has now received a substantial jail term and a timetable has been set to reclaim his ill-gotten gains for the Crown.”

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