A MAN has admitted smuggling 220lb of tobacco through Portsmouth International Port in a van while transporting his five-year-old son.
Paul Adlington, 49, was clocked while driving a Ford Transit van en route from France.
After being stopped, the van was searched and officers found the Golden Virginia tobacco – worth £20,728.80 – hidden in three compartments.
Tammy Mears, prosecuting, said 16.5kg (36lb) of tobacco was found behind a panel in the side of Adlington’s van.
Miss Mears said: ‘That was discovered when officers drilled into the panel. Having tapped it first they could feel it wasn’t quite right.’
She added: ‘Some 34kg (74lb) were then found on the other side of the van.’
Another 49.5kg (109lb) of tobacco was found in another compartment.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard in defence of Adlington, who is engaged, that he was experiencing some financial difficulties at the time and came across someone he knew who was smuggling tobacco and suggested he do the same.
The court was told he contacted a person in Belgium and was due to be paid for bringing the tobacco into the country.
Adlington, of Silverwood Road, Nottingham, admitted one count of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion or attempting to fraudulently evade duty chargeable on the tobacco on August 8 last year.
Adlington, who is paraplegic and has had a foot amputated following two serious workplace accidents and a crash, was sentenced to four months in jail suspended for two years.
He must do 180 hours of unpaid work and pay £450 in court costs.
Recorder Nicholas Rowland, sentencing, said: ‘This was sophisticated smuggling. It wasn’t simply a box in the back of the van. This tobacco was hidden in the fabric of the back of the van – three different sites.’
He added: ‘A serious aggravating factor of this offence is it was committed in front of your five-year-old child.
‘You committed this offence deliberately, knowing full well that you would be driving this van through customs with your fiancée and your son.’
Adlington was ordered to repay the tax he evaded within six months – or face 15 months in jail. The tobacco is to be destroyed.