Woman gets suspended sentence after almost one million illegal cigarettes discovered in her shed

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A Co Armagh woman who stored almost one million illegal cigarettes in an outbuilding next to her home has been sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for three years after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

In April 2013, Charlene Hughes, 36, of Foughillotra Road, Jonesborough, was found to have 953,280 cigarettes and 46.2 litres of vodka, worth an estimated £262,699 in lost duty and taxes, during a search of her address by PSNI officers.

The case was referred to HMRC for investigation and the goods were seized.

Steve Tracey, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Criminals like Hughes are undercutting hard-working, legitimate businesses who simply can’t compete with these illegal products.

“Tobacco fraud costs the UK £2.5 billion a year in lost tax – money that should be funding our public services.

“We are determined to disrupt and detect excise evasion. When caught, fraudsters will have their goods seized, and face a criminal record and possible prison sentence.

“Anyone with information regarding the smuggling, storage or sale of illegal tobacco or alcohol can report it to HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

Hughes was sentenced yesterday to two years imprisonment, suspended for three years, when she appeared at Newry Crown Court.