The ringleader of a plot to smuggle millions of illegal cigarettes has been jailed for three years after he flew to Lithuania to avoid a HMRC investigation.
According to the tax authority, Svajunas Navagruckas, 51, was one of HMRC’s most wanted tax fugitives and led an organised crime network that was caught with 8.5 million illegal cigarettes in June 2017.
He was arrested when HMRC investigators seized the cigarettes, worth £2.8m in evaded duty, at a farm in Lincoln.
Navagruckas left the UK while investigations were ongoing. He was charged in March 2019, with conspiracy to evade excise duty and a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was issued by HMRC. He was returned to the UK on 10 July 2020 after being arrested by Lithuanian authorities.
He is the fourth member of the same gang to be returned to the UK and on Monday 10 August, Navagruckas appeared at Nottingham Crown Court where he pleaded guilty to excise duty evasion. He was sentenced to 28 months in prison on 5 February and confiscation proceedings are now under way.
Richard Paris, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said “Navagruckas was the head of an organised criminal network intent on flooding our streets with millions of illicit cigarettes.
“These kinds of cigarettes come at a cost as they undermine legitimate traders, take vital revenue away from our public services and can all too easily find their way into the hands of children.”