Smuggler hid millions of cigarettes under rotten lettuce

A lorry driver who smuggled six million cigarettes and half a ton of hand rolling tobacco hidden under rotting lettuce has been jailed for three years in Northern Ireland.





Martin Fitzpatrick, 28, from Newry, Co Down was stopped by customs officers at Dover Docks in May 2008. A search of the vehicle revealed the illicit load hidden beneath pallets of rotting lettuce.



The duty evaded on the haul was almost £1m.



Maidstone Crown Court was told that Fitzpatrick claimed his lettuce were destined for the Republic of Ireland.



However, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigators established that the load was not expected at the company he claimed he was to deliver to.



Fitzpatrick of Gowan Street, Newry, had collected the lettuce from Navarra, Spain and claimed to have no knowledge of the cigarettes and tobacco.



The seizure comprised of 610,000 Mayfair cigarettes, 960,000 Palace cigarettes, 200,800 Respect cigarettes and 638.40 kgs of Domingo Azul hand rolling tobacco.



He pleaded guilty at yesterday's court hearing and afterwards Malcolm Bragg, assistant director, HMRC, said: “This was a determined and deliberate attempt to smuggle a huge quantity of illicit tobacco products. Had they reached the open market, the proceeds would have been used to finance organised crime and serve to undermine the honest traders who sell duty paid cigarettes and tobacco.



“If you buy illegal cigarettes you are directly funding criminal gangs and denying public services vital funding.”



Meanwhile over 8,000 litres of laundered fuel being sold at knock-down prices were seized at two illegal filling stations in west Belfast yesterday.



HMRC officers also removed forecourt pumps and equipment at the so-called huckster sites.

From The Belfast Telegraph

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect