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Tobacco thief must pay £12,282 for his part in stealing £500k of contraband from HMRC at Sandwich waste site

A gang member who was involved in stealing contraband tobacco from an incineration site in Sandwich has been ordered to repay £12, 282.

Grzegorz Sikora, formerly of Northdown Road, Cliftonville, is already part way through a sentence of three years and four months.

The gang were caught on CCTV

However a judge at Canterbury Crown Court told him on Friday he must repay the sum within three months or face 12 months in prison by default.

Sikora was part of a gang that in April 2019 was sentenced to a combined 14 years in prison for conspiring to steal £250,000 worth of confiscated tobacco from the government.

At the time of sentencing Judge Catherine Brown said the exact amount of stolen contraband was likely to be much higher.

The tobacco was owned by UK Border Force and it was spirited away from East Kent Waste Recovery Facility at Discovery Park in Sandwich, owned by Augean where the men worked between August 2016 and March 2017.

Sikora, and accomplices Adrian Love, Neil Bradley and Adrian Baker were found guilty at Canterbury Crown Court in March 2019.

Grzegorz Sikora. Picture: Kent Police
Grzegorz Sikora. Picture: Kent Police

A fifth man, Mark Short, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

Bradley, Love and Short will attend a confiscation hearing on December 1.

Baker will have a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) hearing at a later date.

At the time of sentencing Judge Catherine Brown said: "The court will never have a complete or entirely accurate picture of the exact value of the tobacco products stolen by you."

Illegal cigarettes and hand rolling tobbacco were seized(9092462)
Illegal cigarettes and hand rolling tobbacco were seized(9092462)

She added: "The prosecution's evidence, which I accept, suggests a total retail value of £458,000 with a total loss to the revenue of £330,000 based merely on six events in February and March 2017.

"I bear in mind this conspiracy took place over a period from August 2016 until March 2017 and I am sure that much of the communication was likely to have been face to face or telephone discussions.

"In my judgement, taking an overall figure of £500,000 is a very conservative assessment of the value of the goods stolen.

"The true value is probably higher."

Prosecutor Dominic Connolly previously told the jury at Canterbury Crown Court: “Augean, which operates a high temperature incinerator, has a contract with UKBF to destroy hazardous waste, including tobacco, drugs, alcohol – materials which have a high potential black market value.”

Canterbury Crown Court
Canterbury Crown Court

“It is the Crown’s case the tobacco to the value of £235,000 was stolen.”

Mr Connolly also said the tobacco would have had shop value of £458,000.

Mr Connolly said on February 18, 2017, secret CCTV cameras were installed and when later viewed, revealed Short taking bags through locked gates and placing them into the back of his car.

He said later that month site manager Andy Scorer was inspecting a “seldom used” storage area on site situated behind the main incinerator.

Mr Connolly said the manager later checked two freight containers – one was found to have a pallet of tobacco.

The court heard messages between the men included references to Amber, Richmond, Regal, Cutters, Mayfair, Golden Virginia and Turners – all makes of tobacco.

Texts read in court said: “Where have you hid all the baccy (sic)?"

It went on: “Anything about tonight?”

Love, 47, of Grenville Way, Broadstairs, was jailed for four years.

Bradley, 47, of St Augustines Road, Ramsgate, was given three years and four months and Adrian Baker, 49, of Bush Avenue, Ramsgate was given an eight month suspended sentence for 18 months and was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Mark Short, who previously pleaded guilty was given three years and four months.

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Sandwich

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