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A Barking couple have been sentenced for smuggling illegal tobacco products into the UK through the post.
Diana Hristova, 39, and Neofit Mladenov, 52, both of Glenny Road, Barking, arranged the delivery of parcels from Bulgaria and Luxemburg containing illegal cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco worth around £435,000 in unpaid duty.
An investigation was launched by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) after two parcels containing tobacco products were intercepted at sorting centres in Tamworth and Barking in December 2017. Both parcels were bound for their home address.
HMRC seized further illicit parcels linked to the duo between December 2017 and March 2018. The tobacco goods were often concealed inside tins labelled as olive oil and powdered paint.
Officers searched their home and found 102 empty tins, identical to those containing the seized tobacco products, and notebooks with information about other shipments.
Officers also seized mobile phones belonging to Hristova which contained hundreds of text messages about their smuggling operation.
Hristova and Mladenov admitted excise fraud at Snaresbrook Crown Court on January 21.
They were both sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, at the same court on Wednesday March 31
An HMRC spokesperson said:“This was a deliberate attempt to undermine legitimate traders and pocket taxpayers’ money, which should be used to fund our public services.
“The trade in illicit tobacco costs the UK around £1.9 billion a year, and often funds organised crime and other illegal activity that causes real harm to our communities, such as drugs, guns and human trafficking.
“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”