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Smuggler Valerij Budera of Hungary brought cigarettes with asbestos into Dover Eastern Docks

By Sam Lennon

A smuggler brought in cigarettes inside rolls of paper stuffed with asbestos.

Valerij Budera brought more than 750,000 illicit cigarettes into the UK at Dover Eastern Docks.

He was yesterday jailed for 21 months.

The cigarettes smuggled inside tubing with asbestos. Picture courtesy of HMRC
The cigarettes smuggled inside tubing with asbestos. Picture courtesy of HMRC

The lorry driver was arrested by Border Force officers at the docks on October 16 after they prised open a paper tube and found the cigarettes hidden inside.

Around 763,000 non-duty paid NZ and Rothmans brand cigarettes were found inside six pallets described as industrial-sized paper rolls.

The consignment also contained legitimate electrical goods and textiles.

On closer inspection the rolls turned out to be made of paper, concrete and deadly asbestos, which kills around 5,000 UK workers each year.

That is more than the number of people killed on the road.

The smuggling attempt was referred to HM Revenue and Customs for criminal investigation and it is estimated that £196,453 in excise duty was evaded on the cigarettes.

Budera, 30, from the village of Beregsurany, in eastern Hungary, was sentenced on the day he pleaded guilty to evading excise duty at Maidstone Crown Court.

The illicit cigarettes visible inside the tubing. Picture courtesy of HMRC
The illicit cigarettes visible inside the tubing. Picture courtesy of HMRC

Tim Clarke, assistant director at HMRC’s fraud investigation service said after the hearing: “Budera was involved in an organised smuggling attempt where the cigarettes were carefully packed inside so-called industrial-sized paper rolls stuffed with asbestos.

“This was an incredibly reckless and dangerous act that could have had serious consequences for anyone handling the load or buying the cigarettes."

Luckily Budera’s crime was discovered and he’s now serving a jail term.

HMRC says that the trade in illicit tobacco costs the UK around £2.5 billion a year and undermines legitimate trade.

It says that anyone with information about people suspected of smuggling, selling or storing illegal tobacco should contact its hotline on 0800 788 887.

Or they can report it online here.

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