Kent

Gang jailed for stealing seized tobacco

Still from CCTV of a man stealing tobacco from Augean, Sandwich, Kent Image copyright Kent Police
Image caption The gang were caught after managers set up a hidden camera at the incineration plant

A gang who raked in almost £250,000 by selling seized tobacco they stole from the high-security depot where they worked have been jailed.

The workers were caught after staff spotted the contraband hidden around the site where it was due to be destroyed, and set up a covert camera.

Four of the men were convicted of conspiracy to steal from the depot in Sandwich, Kent, during 2016 and 2017.

A fifth man who had previously admitted his part in the plot was also jailed.

Grzegorz Sikora, 37, from Margate, Kent, was sentenced to four years and three months, Adrian Love, 47, from Broadstairs, Kent, was given four years and Neil Bradley, 47, from Ramsgate, Kent, was jailed for three years and four months.

Adrian Baker, 49, also from Ramsgate, was given a suspended eight-month sentence.

They had all denied the charge but were convicted after a trial at Canterbury Crown Court.

Mark Short, 56, from Dover, who pleaded guilty, was also jailed for three years and four months.

Image copyright Kent Police
Image caption Neil Bradley was jailed for three years, four months and Adrian Love for four years

Judge Catherine Brown estimated the theft had deprived HM Revenue and Customs of at least £350,000.

She said: "It is the tax paid on those goods that goes towards paying for the public services on which we all rely."

The court heard the men worked at the East Kent Waste Recovery Facility in Sandwich, then run by Augean, which had a contract to incinerate high-value seized goods on behalf of Border Force officials.

Image copyright Kent Police
Image caption Mark Short was sentenced to three years and four months and Grzegorz Sikora four years three months

Det Con Keith Rochford, of Kent Police, said: "These men abused their position of trust by working together to steal the tobacco.

"We believe they benefited from almost a quarter of a million pounds by selling the contraband goods. The tobacco was thought to be worth more than double that amount if it had been sold at commercial value."

Augean said it had reported "the criminal activity" to police and UK Border Force as soon as it was discovered.

The Home Office said: "The site in question is managed on behalf of Border Force by a contractor who identified the suspicious activity and brought it to the attention of the police and Border Force.

"Security at the site has since been further strengthened."

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