24 Jun Cigarette smuggler found guilty
James Reber, 51, a furniture importer has been given an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years for allowing hollow statues of the religious icon Buddha to be used to smuggle more than 100,000 illicit cigarettes into the UK. He was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
Mr Reber initially denied any knowledge of the Buddhas or the cigarettes but changed his plea and accepted he was guilty of evading £31,000 in excise duty and VAT.
HMRC officers had found five coloured fibreglass statues of Buddha, all filled with cigarettes. The paperwork led HMRC investigators to Mr Reber. The statues were found inside a shipping container which had come from Indonesia.
John Cooper, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation for HMRC said:
'This was a crafty attempt to smuggle illicit cigarettes into the UK, solely to avoid paying excise duty and VAT. Thanks to the vigilance of the officers at the border Reber’s ploy to make a profit at the expense of the taxpayer failed miserably. We will continue to work with Border Force and other law enforcement agencies to take action against those caught committing this type of criminal activity and I urge anyone with information about the sale, smuggling or supply of illegal cigarettes or tobacco to contact our Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.'