Lorry driver Stephen Sparkes jailed for smuggling a million cigarettes through Dover Docks with mouldy shampoo
A lorry driver who smuggled more than a million cigarettes into the country, evading more than £200,000 in customs duty, has been jailed for just over two years.
Stephen Sparkes, of Waylands Holiday Park, Minster, Ramsgate, was caught when he arrived at Dover Docks on March 8 last year.
Customs officers found the illicit cargo hidden among portable heaters, food products past the expiry date and sachets of shampoo that had gone mouldy, Maidstone Crown Court heard.
Sparkes, a 56-year-old former London bus driver, admitted evading duty.
Mark Adams, 45, also of Waylands Holiday Park, denied the charge and the prosecution dropped the case against him. A not guilty verdict was entered.
Senghin Kong, defending Sparkes, said the divorced father was not responsible for organising the importation.
"He was to be paid following delivery of the cigarettes," he said. "Because it was interrupted by searching at the docks he did not derive any financial benefit."
Mr Kong said Sparkes had not offended for a long time and had a modest life. He worked for seven years with London Transport and had been an HGV driver since 2002.
"Since 2012 he has not been able to do that work," said Mr Kong. "He has been working as a delivery driver. For a man in his circumstances prison will be very severe punishment.
"It is a matter of regret he became involved in this offence. He had been working hard to keep away from crime."
The Eastern Docks at the port of Dover
Judge Jeremy Carey said, as a lorry driver, Sparkes was fully aware of the opportunities to earn easy money.
Sentencing him to two years and one month, he added: "You have succumbed to temptation. You took a chance and here you are today, and you have got to take the consequences, which is prison.
"It is a complete waste of time and a complete waste of taxpayers' money. The only reason I am sending you to prison is because those who get involved in large-scale fraud go to prison.
"You are wasting your life and will do so for a period of time. You should have put your hands up to this at the start rather than put forward the defence you did."
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