February 5, 2021 5.14 pm This story is over 17 months old

‘Most wanted’ tax cheat jailed after cigarette smuggling plot

He fled to Lithuania to avoid jail

The ringleader of an illegal cigarettes smuggling plot at a Lincoln farm has been jailed for 28 months, three years after he flew to Lithuania to avoid an HMRC investigation.

Svajunas Navagruckas, 51, who was one of HMRC’s most wanted tax fugitives, led an organised crime network that was caught with 8.5 million illegal cigarettes in June 2017.

Navagruckas, of Margio Gatue, Altyus, Lithuania was arrested when HMRC investigators seized the cigarettes, worth £2.8 million in evaded duty, at a farm in Lincoln.

He left the UK while investigations were ongoing before being charged in March 2019 with conspiracy to evade excise duty.

A European Arrest Warrant was issued by HMRC and he was returned to the UK on July 10 last year after being arrested by Lithuanian authorities.

Navagruckas appeared at Nottingham Crown Court on August 10 last year where he pleaded guilty to excise duty evasion.

He was sentenced to 28 months in prison on Friday, February 5 and confiscation proceedings have begun.

Navagruckas is the fourth member of the same gang to be returned to the UK.

Andrej Jerofejev, Vilmantas Simaitis and Martynas Nazaras.

Andrej Jerofejev, 53, Vilmantas Simaitis, 48, and Martynas Nazaras, 38, were put behind bars last year after they were arrested by Lithuanian authorities and extradited back to the UK by HMRC.

Jerofejev and Nazaras were each jailed for 18 months. Simaitis was jailed for 21 months.

They were caught out when investigators discovered millions of illegal cigarettes concealed in window frames and laundry bags at a Lincoln farm outbuilding on June 15, 2017.

Jerofejev and Nazaras were arrested as they removed the illegal cigarettes, which were hidden within several units of window frames. Simaitis was arrested at the same time at a nearby petrol station.

HMRC found laundry bags and window frames full with illegal cigarettes.

Inside one of the pallets full with illegal cigarettes.

Meanwhile, a European Arrest Warrant has been issued for 40-year-old Robertas Borovskis, who is wanted in connection with the smuggling plot. Anyone with information about his whereabouts should report it online at gov.uk.

Richard Paris, Assistant Director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: “Navagruckas was the head of an organised criminal network intent on flooding our streets with millions of illicit cigarettes.

“These kinds of cigarettes come at a cost as they undermine legitimate traders, take vital revenue away from our public services and can all too easily find their way into the hands of children.”