A serial tobacco smuggler from Hartlepool has avoided jail after pleading guilty to evading almost £25,000 in excise duty and VAT.
Lavinia Akyurt, 42, smuggled cigarettes and tobacco into the UK through Durham Tees Valley, London Stansted and Gatwick airports.
Akyurt, who lived in Hartlepool at the time of the offences but is now living in another part of the country, was arrested in September 2016 at Gatwick Airport.
An investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) following the arrest found that between January 2015 and September 2016, unemployed Akyurt smuggled tobacco on four occasions and organised two smuggling attempts by family members.
Christopher Gill, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: “Lavinia Akyurt thought it was acceptable to undercut hardworking local shopkeepers by smuggling tobacco.
"HMRC officers have now put a stop to this illegal smuggling scheme.
“We encourage anyone with information about the smuggling, storage or sale of illegal cigarettes and tobacco to contact our fraud hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Akyurt evaded £23,549 in excise duty and VAT, and pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty.
She was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, at Lewes Crown Court on Wednesday.
In total, 59,400 cigarettes and 23.25 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco were smuggled into the UK and seized.