Barking tobacco mastermind jailed after £1.2m tax dodge

Hua Tang Chen, 40, and Cui Wang, 32, were behind two illegal processing plants, in London and Manche

Hua Tang Chen, 40, and Cui Wang, 32, were behind two illegal processing plants, in London and Manchester, overseeing the smuggling and distribution of illicit tobacco across the country. - Credit: Archant

A tax-dodging mastermind is on the run after investigators uncovered her illicit tobacco racket.

Barking resident Cui Wang, 32, was today handed a five-year jail term in her absence for the fraudulent evasion of excise duty after absconding before her trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

She and her boyfriend, Hua Tang Chen, were arrested in April after evading £1.2m in tax and duties from smuggling and distributing illicit cigarettes and tobacco across the country.

Chen, 40, received a three-year jail term today after pleading guilty to the same charge. He was busted unloading boxes of counterfeit packaging and duty stamps at Wang’s home in Sunningdale Avenue.

A delivery vehicle containing 105,800 non-UK Duty paid cigarettes hidden in air filters then arrived a few minutes afterwards. Customs inspectors searching Chen’s flat in Tottenham discovered £20,000 in used £20 notes.

In a separate raid on the same day, inspectors uncovered machinery used to process raw tobacco in a garage Wang rented in Chingford and found three tonnes of processed hand-rolling tobacco.

A further processing plant was unearthed on the same day in a raid in Failsworth, Manchester, as well as nearly two tonnes of raw tobacco. Three illegal Chinese workers who were working and living in the house later admitted the fraudulent evasion of excise duty and were each sentenced to six months in jail in June this year.

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Chris Gill, assistant director at HMRC’s fraud investigation Service, said the couple were “flooding the streets of the UK with illicit tobacco with absolutely no regard to the potential harm such criminal acts cause to individuals, communities and legitimate businesses”.

He added: “Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clamp down on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2 billion a year and by dismantling this illegal operation, we have prevented millions of pounds from being stolen through the evasion of duty.”

Anyone with information about people dealing in illicit cigarettes or tobacco, or the whereabouts of Cui Wang, should contact HMRC’s 24-hour hotline on 0800 59 5000.