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article imageRAF servicemen jailed for cigarette smuggling

By Lynn Curwin     Feb 4, 2011 in Crime
Bristol - Three RAF servicemen, who were involved in smuggling cigarettes into the UK from the Middle East on military flights, were sentenced to time in jail.
Cpl Stuart Helens, 31, Sgt Stuart Walker, 43, and senior aircraftman Paul Garbutt, 31, admitted to being part of a scheme which brought about 350,000 packets of cigarettes into the country in 2008 and 2009.
They were flown into RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshireand, RAF Lyneham, in Wiltshire, and then sold in north-east England.
Each of the men made about £30,000 before what they were doing was discovered.
"You were all serving members of the RAF at the time, all trusted implicitly to deal with air cargo, and you all breached that trust," BBC News reported that Judge Michael Longman told them at Bristol Crown Court on Friday.
"I accept this behaviour was out of character for you all and you were motivated by greed."
According to The Guardian, HM Revenue and Customs investigators discovered that at least 57,000 packets were smuggled from Oman, evading approximately £204,000 in duty and VAT; and another 300,000 were brought on flights from Afghanistan, evading almost £1.1 million in duty and VAT.
Prosecutor Ian Dixey explained that once shipments leave a secure compound, the loading of the aircraft is entrusted to the RAF movement personnel.
"It is essential the aircraft are loaded very quickly under the cover of darkness and those loading the planes are entrusted with the safe loading of items onto the flights,” This is Wiltshire quoted him as saying.
"Unfortunately that also provides a cover to allow items to be secreted onto the flights in a way that is done in this particular case.
"The one way the system falls down is if items are secreted after the security checks have taken place.”
Helens pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and was given a three-year prison term.
Walker, who pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, was sentenced to two years.
Paul Garbutt entered guilty pleas to two charges of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and one charge of acquisition of criminal property, and was given a sentence of three years and four months.
Civilians Lisa Harrison, 36, Alison McCabe, 45, and Christopher Garbutt, 26 (Paul Garbutt's brother) also entered guilty pleas for their involvement.
Harrison and McCabe both admitted to being involved in the acquisition of stolen property.
Harrison was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years, and directed to perform 150 hours of unpaid work. McCabe was given a six month sentence, suspended for 18 months.
Christopher Garbutt was given a nine month sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work after he admitted to conspiring to cheat the public revenue.
Paul Garbutt's wife Louisa, 36, was acquitted of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and acquisition of criminal property.
A seventh person, Cpl Thomas Warren, has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and will be sentenced later.
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