Smuggler avoids jail sentence for £78k duty fraud

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A man who claimed trips to France were treats for pensioners has been given a suspended prison sentence for evading almost £80,000 duty.

William Walker, 74, of Beetons Way, Bury St Edmunds, had denied two offences of dealing with goods with fraudulent intent in a year from October 2010 but was last month found guilty by a jury at Ipswich Crown Court.

Last Thursday he returned to court to be sentenced by Judge David Goodin to 12 months prison suspended for two years. He was ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work.

Walker faces a further hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recoup cash.

Walker was arrested on October 18, 2011 after parking his van in a restricted area of St Andrews Street South. The jury heard police became suspicious when 2,000 cigarettes, 40 pouches of tobacco and 120 bottles of beer were found in the van.

More was found at his home plus £60,000 in cash. Revenue and Customs said Walker had avoided an estimated £78,378 in excise duty.

Walker told the court that he had made trips to France in his car, some to give local pensioners a day out, but only to bring back vegetables and tinned fruit and because he enjoyed visiting.