A St Helens shopkeeper has been jailed for tax evasion.
Artur Gusciora, of Cheshire Close, Newton-le-Willows, was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, suspended for two years when he pleaded guilty to the excise duty evasion when he appeared at Chester Crown Court.
He also given a 12-month supervision order.
In July 2014, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers searched the home address of the 35-year-old, which at that time was in Bristow Close, in Warrington, and his retail premises on Orford Lane, Warrington.
During the search of his home, HMRC officers found a total of 87,880 mixed brands of non-UK duty paid cigarettes which displayed foreign health warnings and had no UK fiscal marks.
In addition, HMRC officers discovered £7,980 inside the pockets of a suit jacket hung on one of the bedrooms.
Both the cigarettes and cash were seized by HMRC pending further enquiries.
On discovery of the cigarettes, Gusciora was arrested, on suspicion of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of excise duty. The total amount of UK excise duty evaded was £21,258.04.
The court was told that during interview under caution, Gusciora admitted that he bought cigarettes from friends who would bring them through into the UK when they were travelling abroad and he would pay about £40 per sleeve of 200 cigarettes (£4 per pack of 20).
He added that he gave these as payment to friends/workers who assisted him in his business and didn’t sell the cigarettes in his shop, smoking as many as 20 a day himself. When he was told that HMRC had seized more 87,000 cigarettes in his house he said he didn’t realise there were that many and he felt ‘like a dealer’.
Sandra Smith, assistant director of criminal investigation, HMRC, said: “HMRC will not hesitate to investigate those who try to profit from defrauding honest taxpayers, and businesses by providing an unregulated supply of smuggled tobacco.”
Gusciora will also be subjected to a proceeds of Crime Act hearing.