Huge cigarette smuggling business was run from self-storage unit

A self-storage facility was being used as a warehouse for huge quantities of cigarettes which were being smuggled to Wales from Europe. The scam was uncovered when a lorry carrying 95,000 cigarettes in lead-lined wooden crates was intercepted by border guards as it emerged from the Channel Tunnel. Inquiries led law enforcement officers to a Big Yellow storage centre in Cardiff and to more illegally-imported tobacco.

:Sniffer dogs find stash of illegal cigarettes hidden in shop’s false ceiling Prosecutor Tom Roberts told Cardiff Crown Court that on January 12, 2019, customs officers stopped an HGV as it entered the UK. Inside officers found 95,000 cigarettes in lead-lined wooden crates.

The crates were destined for the Big Yellow storage centre in Penarth Road in Cardiff and when police went to the facility they found a self-storage unit containing almost-identical wooden crates of cigarettes along with a large quantity of rolling tobacco. The court heard that as part of the investigation police checked CCTV from the site and found footage from December 12 and December 18 of a woman dealing with a delivery of shrink-wrapped crates and using a pallet truck to move them into the lock-up. That woman turned out to be 26-year-old Shiting Wang.

The prosecutor said the total value of the duty which had not been paid on the imported cigarettes and tobacco amounted to almost GBP57,000. Check what crimes have been reported in your area: Wang, of Heol Layard, Tremorfa, Cardiff, admitted being involved in the fraudulent importation of goods on which duty was payable.

The plea had been entered on the basis that the defendant had not known what was in the wooden crates on the first occasion she received the delivery but by the second shipment did have knowledge of what was inside. Hashim Salmman, for Wang, said his client was a woman of “limited means” who worked in a grocery shop. He said her husband had gone abroad leaving the defendant to pay the mortgage and bring up her one-year-old son alone.

Recorder Greg Bull QC said some aspects of Wang’s basis of plea “stretch credibility” but he would be faithful to it when it came to sentencing. He said the defendant had been involved in the importation of large amounts of cigarettes from Europe and the avoidance of the revenue on the those goods which was due to the UK Government. Recorder Bull said he was minded to follow the recommendations of a pre-sentence report and he sentenced the defendant to a 12-month community order with rehabilitation requirement and 150 hours of unpaid work.

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