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Gravesend: Edmundas Smiltniekas sentenced for part in Aras Rashid's international tobacco smuggling operation

By Ed McConnell

A Kent carpenter played a part in an international tobacco smuggling operation.

Edmundas Smiltniekas, of Freeman Road, Gravesend, packed cigarettes into boxes at a site in Dagenham in 2015.

The packs with the 37-year-old father-of-two's fingerprints on were uncovered by HM Revenue and Customs from two containers at a site in Hull and were traced back to 40-year-old shopkeeper Aras Rashid.

Officers seized more than one million cigarettes from the site in Hull
Officers seized more than one million cigarettes from the site in Hull

In total 1,110,040 mixed branded cigarettes and 735kg of rolling tobacco were seized.

Officers found £15,220 at Rashid's flat and in September 2015 three deliveries of several hundred thousand cigarettes falsely labelled as marine plywood and linked to Rashid which had been shipped from Greece were also uncovered.

The total duty evaded on all the goods was estimated at £670,000.

Rashid was arrested at Stansted Airport after arriving back from Norway in May 2016. He was found guilty at Hull Crown Court in December and last week was jailed for five years.

Smiltniekas admitted handling and packing the illegal cigarettes last summer and was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, and 250 hours unpaid work.

One other suspect who failed to attend court is currently being pursued by HMRC.

Confiscation proceedings are now underway.

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