News article

Fugitive jailed as expatriates in Spain urged to report tobacco smugglers

This world location news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Expatriates with information or suspicions about tobacco smuggling and tax fraud are being asked to call a Customs Hotline with any information that could lead to arrests or seizures.

The call for help from the British community follows the jailing of convicted cigarette smuggler Malcolm McGowan, who has just been extradited from Spain and is now starting a four-year jail term.

The freephone number to pass on information is 900 988 922. For people in the UK it is 0800 595 000. People can also email customs.hotline@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk. There is no need to give personal details, and information that leads directly to an arrest could be considered for a small reward.

McGowan, 61, originally from Edinburgh, was arrested at a swimming pool in Valencia on 10 August by the Guardia Civil. He fled the UK 12 years ago after being found guilty of smuggling 28.3 million cigarettes into the country. His crimes robbed the UK of around £4 million in duty and he was sentenced in his absence in December 2001.

McGowan was part of a wider conspiracy to smuggle around 56 million cigarettes into the UK between November 1999 and March 2000. Ten other men were involved in the plot, which robbed the UK taxpayer of over £8.2 million.

Adrian Farley, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HM Revenue & Customs, said:

McGowan is finally facing UK justice after 12 years on the run. We are determined to pursue fugitives and ensure they face the consequences of their criminal activity. HMRC would like to thank the Spanish authorities and UK organisations that assisted with this operation.

The call to ring 900 988 922 comes as smugglers try to make huge profits from illegal imports of cigarettes, and the selling of low-quality, counterfeit cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol.

Customs officers are also keen for information about other items such as drugs, firearms, obscene material and endangered species. Tax frauds that HMRC want to hear about include betting and gaming, money laundering and the ‘carousel’ VAT scam in Europe.

Smugglers and fraudsters cheat the rest of us by not contributing the tax that pays for schools, hospitals and public services”, said an HMRC spokesman.

People in the British expatriate community can help us to find them.