RAF man jailed over smuggled cigarettes

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AN RAF serviceman who was involved in a cigarette smuggling ring from the Middle East has been jailed.

Senior Aircraftman Paul Garbutt, 31, from Avon Grove, Billingham pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to evade duty on cigarettes smuggled on flights from Oman from July to September 2008 along with co-accused Sergeant Stuart Walker, 43, and Corporal Stuart Helens, 31.

Hauls of cigarettes were flown into RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire in 2008 and 2009 in a “well thought out and professionally planned” operation.

Civilians Lisa Harrison, 36, Alison McCabe, 45, and Christopher Garbutt, 26 – Paul Garbutt’s brother – also owned up to being part of the scam between late 2008 and May 2009.

Prosecutor Ian Dixey said the serviceman – who all worked as “air movers” loading and unloading military aircraft – exploited their position of trust to smuggle cigarettes into the UK from Afghanistan and Oman.

Mr Dixey told the court that SAC Garbutt and his wife Louisa – later acquitted of her role in the conspiracy – had bought a £290,000 second home with the help of his aunt McCabe and her partner Harrison, a financial advisor for HBOS.

Collectively they laundered at least £95,000 towards the purchase of SAC Garbutt’s home in Billingham.

Paul Garbutt admitted two charges of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and one charge of acquisition of criminal property.

Christopher Garbutt, of Knapton Avenue, Billingham, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and converting criminal property.

Harrison, of Sydney Road, Middlesbrough, and McCabe, of Fielding Court, Billingham, each admitted a charge of being concerned in the acquisition of criminal property.

Judge Michael Longman jailed Paul Garbutt for three years and four months, while Christopher Garbutt was given nine months imprisonment, which was suspended for two years, and 150 hours unpaid work.

McCabe received a six-month jail term, suspended for 18 months, and Harrison got a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. She was also ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid work.