Cig smuggling former cop to pay back just £1

Ex-Cleveland Police officer Gary Thompson who admitted cigarette smuggling
Ex-Cleveland Police officer Gary Thompson who admitted cigarette smuggling

A DISGRACED police officer who orchestrated a £10m cigarette smuggling operation will pay back just £1, despite making £90,000.

Former Hartlepool police officer and Gulf War veteran Gary Thompson led the scam to import 60 million cigarettes into the UK.

Thompson, who drove a Porsche and lived in a five-bedroom home with his wife, said he had run up debts of more than £120,000 after a career in the armed forces and the police.

He admitted laundering more than £2m of his criminal cash by setting up a fake fish tank company called Bubblearium, which existed only to launder the proceeds of the crime.

Thompson, 45, was jailed for six years last year, but was brought back to Newcastle Crown Court as prosecutors tried to claw back some of his ill-gotten gains.

But the court heard he is currently penniless, despite making £90,000 from his crimes, meaning he must pay back a nominal sum of just £1 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Former Hartlepool Police colleague Anthony Lamb was ordered to pay back £5,000.

David Lister, who pocketed £45,000, is also said to be lacking any available assets and so must also pay just £1.

Thompson, who rose to the rank of Acting Sergeant during his time with Cleveland Police, was part of an organised crime gang illegally importing the cigarettes.

The 43-year-old, along his ex-colleague Lamb, used his knowledge of the legal system to evade millions of pounds of duty, producing letterheads and fake email addresses to hijack around 16 businesses in the North-East as a front to hide the scam from the authorities.

Over a three-year period the gang tricked freight agents by setting up a string of aliases under the fake name David Wilson and hijacking companies with telephone lines and email addresses.

More than 21 containers arrived at Felixstowe, Suffolk, from ports in Dubai, Singapore, Turkey and Greece before Lister, 49, of Lakenside Caravan park, Norfolk, used fake documents to collect the cargo and transport it to the North-East.

In total, officers from HM Revenue and Customs intercepted 21 shipments and they discovered the gang had carried out dummy runs by importing six shipments of paving slabs.

When they seized a further seven of the huge containers, they discovered a haul of 59,560,000 cigarettes which evaded VAT just short of £11m.

But prosecutors claim they may never know the true value of the cigarettes because eight of the containers were never found.

They estimated those shipments may have represented another £10m in lost revenue.

Thompson, of Burdon Walk, Castle Eden, was jailed for six years last July after admitting conspiracy to evade cigarette duty.

Lamb, 50, of Ashbourne Drive, Coxhoe, pleaded guilty to the same charge and was locked up for five years.

Haulage worker Lister admitted he collected 11 of the containers and had helped organise the collection of a further five. He was jailed for two years.