A gang of five men, who met at roadside cafes and used free public Wi-Fi to try and hide their £10 million cigarette smuggling ring, have been jailed for 16-and-a-half years.
Raymond Hughes, 57, of Elmsfield Park, Aughton, was ringleader of the group of men who attempted to import large freight consignments of illegal cigarettes from Europe and China, describing them as mattresses and automotive parts to evade detection.
Hughes held regular ‘business meetings’ in a roadside cafe and other locations that offered free Wi-Fi in a bid to avoid being caught.
Tony Capon, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service said: “Hughes lived in an expensive house, drove a Porsche Cayenne and travelled the world, but he never declared any legitimate income or business trading to HMRC. He operated a criminal network to smuggle, transport, store and sell illegal cigarettes and tobacco, purely to evade tax. This was a serious attempt on an industrial scale to steal millions of pounds from the public purse and undermine local businesses.”
Hughes was jailed for six years. The other jailed gang members were Marc Feldman, 54, of Leeds, who was jailed for 30 months, Michael McNally, 49, and John Wignal, 57, both of Liverpool, who were each jailed for 30 months, and Stephen Sheard, of Crewe, 53, who was jailed over two charges each with a three year sentence.