Homes in Spain, a yacht, red E-type Jaguar and a classic Norton motorbike were all bought by Donald Southall from Sedgley who was making a mint out of his part in an international tobacco smuggling plot.He ran the UK side of a smuggling network which brought in cigarettes from Eastern Europe, evading at least £1.7 million of tax.
Customs officials believe that although they seized 11 million cigarettes, many more cigarettes would have gone into the UK black market.Gang member Robert Horton, aged 43, of Church Road, Norton Canes, controlled the European end of the operation from his base in Hungary, Northampton Crown Court heard yesterday.He would meet potential suppliers and arrange for the bulk transportation of the smuggled cigarettes by the lorry load. Southall, of Gospel End Road, Sedgley, operated the UK side of the criminal network and oversaw the arrival and distribution of the cigarettes.Horton’s partner Julie Henworth, aged 42, was said to be “at the heart” of the organised crime gang. She was said to have acted as an administrator and travel agent” by arranging and paying for flights for numerous covert meetings between Horton and Southall in Europe and beyond.Sentencing the defendants, Judge Ian Alexander said: “This was a highly professional operation. You (Southall and Horton) joined together for the mutual benefits you derived from tobacco smuggling.” Southall and Horton were sentenced to four years and eight months in prison after pleading guilty to charges of tobacco smuggling.
Henworth, of Church Road, Norton Canes, was jailed for two years after pleading guilty to charges of money laundering.Southall and Henworth were arrested in March 2007 following a series of dawn raids across the Midlands after a two-year operation.Cash, computers and paperwork including bank account details were seized from their home addresses. Horton was arrested in May 2008 when he surrendered to UK authorities.Adrian Farley, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for Customs, said today: “This was a large-scale international tobacco smuggling plot which took our investigations all over Europe.“With the support of law enforcement colleagues in Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Austria and France, we have broken up this gang and are now working to take away the proceeds of their crime.” The gang operated between 2005 and 2006.