Douglas Allison, the man cast as the ringleader of this operation, together with three others, Russell Baker, Terrence Crowhurst and Timothy Shaw were all due to appear at Maidstone Crown Court on the 19th September 2012. Only Baker, Crowhurst and Shaw attended on that date and they were sentenced to 33 months imprisonment each for Baker and Crowhurst, who drove the lorries importing the cigarettes, and 21 months imprisonment for Shaw who helped organise the shipments.
The Court was told that Allison was known to have flown out of the country to Dubai. In his absence he was sentenced to 6 and a half years imprisonment.
The group used HGV lorries disguised to look as if they were carrying frozen food to attempt to import the goods in through Dover and Newhaven ports, but two lorries were stopped by HM Revenue and Customs Officers. It is estimated that the total duty lost on the cigarettes would have been £2.7 million. All four men had been charged with the fraudulent evasion of duty. HMRC said that Allison had admitted that he had been dealing in fake cigarettes for a number of years and they said that he had lied to investigators to try and hide his criminal income. They said that he was using his illegal earnings to gamble, have expensive holidays, invest in shares and purchase property.
On being told of Allison's flight out of the country, the sentencing Judge, Judge Michael Carroll, said "well if you are going to go, at least go out with a bang." He expressed the view that the UK enjoys good relations with the United Arab Emirates and went on to add "if he does remain there, I would have thought it would only be a matter of time before he is joining us here." The Judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
As it transpired he was arrested the following day at Heathrow Airport and having been brought before the Court, was given an additional 6 months imprisonment for what is believed to be an offence under the Bail Act for failing to attend court on the 19th September 2012.
If HMRC are right in their assertion that Allison has been importing counterfeit cigarettes into the country for some time, the extent of his previous importations and the financial value of them is unknown.