Duty payable on a stash of imported cigarettes and tobacco stored in a Boston house would have amounted to more than £34,000, a court has been told.
But the man keeping them, Vladimirs Stepanovs, was described by his solicitor as ‘a dupe’ as he had agreed to store them for a friend, Boston magistrates were told.
The cigarettes and tobacco were seized from the house, along with £2,000 in cash, in two separate raids by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in March and May last year.
Stepanovs, 56, of Portland Street, denied four counts of knowingly keeping goods with intent to defraud Her Majesty of duty payable, but was convicted following a trial on April 10.
At Wednesday’s resumed hearing, Stepanovs was given a 12-month community order with 200 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £250 costs with a £60 victim surcharge.
Prosecutor Paul Wood said HMRC visited Stepanovs’ home on March 21 last year and found £2,000 in cash, 141,806 cigarettes in various brands and 2.3kilos of handrolling tobacco.
Officers returned on May 2 last year and found 2,140 cigarettes and 2.9kilos of tobacco.
Mr Wood said Stepanovs had agreed to store the goods on behalf of a third party, but it was decided by the convicting court that he knew duty was payable and he was intending to defraud the state.
He said the total duty payable would have been £34,360.74.
Solicitor Mike Alexander, mitigating, told magistrates that when HMRC visited in March, they seized some of the cigarettes and tobacco but, for some reason, didn’t take everything.
He said: “On May 2 they came back and took the rest of the items they didn’t take in the first place.
“The crown didn’t seek to persuade you that Mr Stepanovs was selling these items because he wasn’t. They didn’t seek to persuade you that he was high up the food chain because he wasn’t.”
Mr Alexander said Stepanovs stored the £2,000 in cash and the cigarettes and tobacco at the request of a man he knew.
He said: “At best Mr Stepanovs was a dupe. He has never been involved in this kind of thing before and he is literally kicking himself about what has happened.”