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25 March 2011, 10:21
A member of a Southampton-based cigarette smuggling gang has been told that he must pay back £331,000 of his criminal proceeds within six months, or face a further three years in jail.
Ringleader Sergejs Frolovs was at the heart of smuggling operations worth up to £1.7m and used false identities, a fake Danish passport and more than 20 bank accounts through which the proceeds of the scam could be laundered. Frolovs, a Latvian national, is already serving a ten and a half year sentence for money laundering and excise evasion dating back to 2002. He was caught when customs officials at Dover stopped a Polish lorry bound for Southampton and found 1.1m cigarettes concealed in a load of concrete beams.
Following conviction HMRC investigation officers looked into the whereabouts and extent of Frolov’s financial benefit from his crimes. Maidstone Crown Court heard how Frolov had moved funds widely and effectively, using casinos to launder cash, investing in property and moving considerable sums out of the UK altogether.
Bob Gaiger, spokesman for HMRC in the South said:
“HMRC is determined to seek out and investigate those involved in cigarette smuggling, and to pursue the ill-gotten gains of those involved in this type of criminality seized. Frolovs has a choice: to pay up now or serve more time in jail and still owe the money. Anyone with information about cigarette smuggling can contact our Customs hotline on 0800 59 5000.”