Jailed: Forest Gate scaffolder who helped smuggle 12million cigarettes in £3.6m tax swindle

Egidijus Kairys has been jailed for three years. Pic: HMRC

Egidijus Kairys has been jailed for three years. Pic: HMRC - Credit: Archant

A scaffolder from Forest Gate has been jailed for his role in a £3.6million tax swindle where 12 million cigarettes were smuggled into the UK.

Left to right: Haroldas Bernotas, Linas Bernotas and ringleader Dainius Pranskaitis. Pic: HMRC

Left to right: Haroldas Bernotas, Linas Bernotas and ringleader Dainius Pranskaitis. Pic: HMRC - Credit: Archant

Egidijus Kairys, 44, of Forest Lane, was part of a five-strong gang behind the audacious operation where the cigarettes were sneaked into the country from Ukraine inside wooden cable drum discs to avoid duty tax.

The gang were caught red-handed unloading the cigarettes from the hollowed out concealments at an industrial unit in Stanley, County Durham, in April 2015.

Yesterday at Newcastle Crown Court Kairys, who drove the gang from Luton Airport to the rented industrial unit, was jailed for three years.

Ringleader Dainius Pranskaitis, from Catford, south east London, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years

The cigarettes were hidden in these wooden cable drum discs. Pic: HMRC

The cigarettes were hidden in these wooden cable drum discs. Pic: HMRC - Credit: Archant


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Pranskaitis’ nephew Kristupas Strasunskas was jailed for 18 months and father and son, Linas, 46, and 23-year-old Haroldas Bernotas were sentenced to two-and-half years and two years, respectively.

All were convicted of excise fraud.

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Eden Noblett, assistant director, HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said: “This was a sophisticated operation that flooded the North East with illegal cigarettes. The gang stole from our public services as well as harming legitimate and hardworking businesses. HMRC will not tolerate criminals who think this is an acceptable way to do business.

“Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clamp down on the illicit tobacco market.

Survillence image of Kairys, in the red top, with Bernotas. Pic: HMRC

Survillence image of Kairys, in the red top, with Bernotas. Pic: HMRC - Credit: Archant

“I encourage anyone with information about tobacco fraud to contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

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