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‘Man in pub’ claim no defence for fraudster

Press Release   •   Nov 27, 2015 17:54 GMT

A Rochdale man, who tried to blame a ‘man in the pub’ for his illegal cigarette hoard in a £57,000 tax fraud, has been jailed for 12 months.

Unemployed, Andrew Longbottom, 53, of Wardle, Rochdale, was caught in 2013 by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers, who discovered he had more than 127,200 illegal cigarettes and 68 kilos of tobacco in a rented storage unit. A search of his van also revealed more cigarettes and over £18,700 in cash, hidden behind a panel, which he couldn’t explain.

During interviews he claimed he was storing and transporting the cigarettes for a man in his local pub, but didn’t know his name. In reality, HMRC officers proved to the court that Longbottom had lived off criminal cash, evading taxes and dealing in the cigarettes and tobacco for himself.

Sandra Smith, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“All his lies fell apart under scrutiny and ultimately Longbottom had to admit his guilt. The court result demonstrates our relentless pursuit of fraudsters who try to evade tax on tobacco products. A confiscation hearing under Proceeds of Crime will now follow in this case to recover the stolen tax for the public purse.

“We urge anyone with information about the trade in smuggled cigarettes or tobacco products to contact the Customs Hotline 0800 59 5000. If you get approached in the pub about dodgy cigarettes, call us – don’t let them get away with this type of fraud.”

Longbottom was jailed for 12 months yesterday at Manchester Crown Court for tax evasion on the tobacco products. His Honour Judge Potter agreed that he must serve six months in jail and then six months on licence.

Notes to Editors

1.Andrew Longbottom (DOB 06/09/62) of Lawflat, Wardle, Rochdale, Greater Manchester, was sentenced yesterday (26 November 2015) to 12 months in prison after previously pleading guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 on 1 October 2013 at Manchester Crown Court.

2.Longbottom was arrested on 13 February 2013 when he was seen by HMRC officers loading his van with bags of cigarettes. The officers found 2,520 cigarettes plus 0.8 kilos of tobacco in the bags and over £18,700 in cash hidden behind a panel in the van.

3.Evidence also proved Longbottom was linked to a rented storage unit on Brown Street, Littleborough, Rochdale, that had been searched earlier the same day after a tobacco detector dog found 127,200 cigarettes and 61.8 kilos of hand rolling tobacco (HRT) stored there. Longbottom admitted he rented the storage unit using a false identity but claimed he was storing the goods for a ‘man in the pub’.

4.The total UK duty and VAT evasion on all of the seized tobacco products is £38,855.

5.The £18,740 cash found in the van was also forfeited back to public funds in a separate magistrates court hearing on 6 November 2015 under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

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Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.