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Wine smugglers sentenced

Two men accused on smuggling illicit wine into the UK have been jailed for excise duty and VAT evasion.

Roberto Parma was sentenced to six years and seven months imprisonment whilst his accomplice Alberto Mori was given seven years. They imported wine from Italy and sold it on without paying more than £5 million in duty and VAT.

They imported the wine from an Italy-based company, Cantine Soldo spa, using the UK's duty suspension scheme but exploited it by using the same delivery documents many times and avoiding paying duty by diverting the wine from the bonded warehouse, when the duty would normally be paid.

Mori worked with Parma to sell the wine illegally through a network of wholesalers around the UK.

HMRC investigators found that Parma’s company provided cover for the fraud. It used Skype messaging to orchestrate the movement of wine from Italian warehouses and gave code words to drivers to use when picking up the loads, to avoid paperwork landing in official hands.

Parma and Mori were arrested in July 2009 after a discovery of more than 114,000 litres of wine during a search. HMRC investigators realised the scale of the fraud after finding records on a company computers and on a memory stick mapping out the fraud.

A further indication of the fraud was revealed to HMRC investigators when stock levels at the UK bonded warehouse showed that wine was being stored for unusually long periods of time.

Parma and Mori skipped bail and returned to Italy, but were tracked down by Italian Police and extradited to the UK in 2012 to stand trial. During the arrest more than £58,000 of cash was seized.

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