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Pair smuggled 56,000 cigarettes into the country
10:20am Monday 28th October 2013 in News
A COUPLE cleared of smuggling tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco into Southampton have received suspended sentences for bringing thousands of cigarettes into the country.
Duo Gao and Jing Zhang were found not guilty of attempting to smuggle nearly three tonnes of tobacco through Southampton Container Port following a five-week trial.
But the pair were convicted of smuggling a total of 56,000 cigarettes between them into the UK from China.
Gao, 60, and Zhang, 42, were accused of attempting to bring in a total of 2.9 tonnes of handrolling tobacco through the container port during July and December 2011.
They were also accused of attempting to smuggle three tonnes of the tobacco through Felixstowe Container Port in April 2011. However, they were acquitted by the jury following a five-week trial.
Southampton Crown Court heard how Gao, of Croydon, south London, was stopped by customs at Heathrow airport with 26,000 cigarettes in his suitcase following a trip to China in May 2011.
The court heard how Zhang, also of Croydon, was also stopped by customs officers at Birmingham airport with 30,000 cigarettes in October 2011. The legal limit a passenger can carry is 200 cigarettes.
Judge Derwin Hope sentenced Gao to two months in prison, suspended for 12 months, while Zhang was given a three-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid community work.
He said: “I have no doubt these offences did not arise out of negligence but were in each case born out of a professionally planned operation.”