A Hove man has been given a suspended prison sentence after he admitted smuggling hundreds of thousands of counterfeit cigarettes.
Mitchell Scott, 59, of Nevill Road, Hove, evaded £210,000 in duty on the cigarettes which were smuggled into Southampton Port in a container.
Revenue and Customs said: “The load supposedly contained boxes of vaping equipment and wooden seats.
“Mitchell Scott, who set himself up as an online vaping retailer as a front for his illegal importation, was arrested by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers in Hove on (Wednesday) 1 February 2017.
“HMRC’s investigation began in July 2016 after Border Force officers at Southampton Container Port discovered 642,200 counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes in a shipping container.
“The illicit cigarettes were found hidden under wooden chairs in 93 boxes – and box 94 was full of vaping equipment.”
Richard Wilkinson, assistant director of Revenue and Customs’ Fraud Investigation Service, said: “Mitchell Scott tried to rip off legitimate retailers by smuggling counterfeit cigarettes into Southampton Port.
“Import documents with false information were meant to stop the illegal load being discovered.
“HMRC works with Border Force to reduce the availability of illicit tobacco which costs the UK around £2.5 billion a year.
“We encourage anyone with information about the smuggling, storage or sale of illegal cigarettes to report it to HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788887.”
Scott pleaded guilty to evading excise duty at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday 21 December 2017.
He was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, at the same court on Tuesday (23 January).
He was also given a community payback order of 240 hours’ unpaid work.