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Airline pilot admits smuggling

A SCOTS pilot who used his job to smuggle cigarettes and alcohol into the UK has been fined.

Non-smoker Andrew Creelman, 54, of Bishopton, Renfrewshire brought more than 16,000 cigarettes and 20 litres of spirits into the UK illegally.

The airline captain, who was working for British Airways, was caught after being stopped by UK Border Agency (UKBA) staff at Edinburgh Airport.

Creelman pled guilty to the fraudulent evasion of tax, and was fined £1320 and ordered to pay costs of £85.

Lisa Rose, specialist prosecutor for the CPS Central Fraud Division, said: "Captain Creelman, who did not smoke, knew smuggling was a serious offence and failed to declare the tobacco he brought into the country at airports. During a period of just over a year, Creelman escaped duty due on 16,400 cigarettes and 20 litres of rum.

"Despite knowing the rules, Creelman exceeded his duty limits on 19 occasions with cigarettes and 10 occasions with spirits.

"Captain Creelman continued to think he could rise above the law and evaded more than £5600 in taxes.

"Paying tax matters – it's what keeps our schools and hospitals running. Those who use their positions to evade paying it should know they risk prosecution."

Creelman pled guilty to two counts contrary to Section 170 (2) (a) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

Martin Brown, assistant director of the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) criminal investigation department, told the City of London Magistrates' Court: "Andrew Creelman blatantly abused his position of trust as an airline captain to evade UK duty.

"His actions cost the UK taxpayer money needed to fund vital public services. HMRC works closely with UK Border Agency officers to detect and disrupt this kind of criminal activity."

A British Airways spokesman said: "We take such matters extremely seriously and will always assist the authorities with their investigations."

Figures published in April this year indicated some £12.2 billion was lost to illegal trade in cigarettes, with around one in every five cigarettes on sale in Britain believed to have been illegally imported, while as much as 50% of hand-rolled tobacco is believed to be illicit. One in every 10 bottles of spirit is also believed to have been illegally imported.

Trade in counterfeit tobacco products has cost the UK economy an estimated £50bn since 2000, with around £12.2bn believed to have been lost to the illicit trade in the last financial year alone – more than the amount lost to illegal beer, spirits and diesel combined.

Mr Brown urged those with information about smuggling or illegal sales to contact the HMRC hotline on 0800 59 5000.

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