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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 17:51 GMT
Fake cigarette gang found guilty
A gang of smugglers has been found guilty after attempting to flood the north-east of England with a batch of counterfeit cigarettes.

Three men from Tyneside and two from Manchester were charged in May 2005 after attempting to smuggle nearly 1m cigarettes into the country.

They were hidden inside a refrigerated lorry and were found in a raid on a unit on an industrial estate.

The men are due to be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court later in March.

The men were charged with offences contrary to the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 section 170 (2).

Health risks

Those charged were Pradeep Bahanda, 48, of Old Durham Road, Gateshead; Franco Gregorio, 33, of Eslington Terrace, Jesmond, Newcastle; Antonio Gregorio, 39, of Beech Grove Road, Newcastle; John Dent, 59, of Valley Road, Middleton, Manchester; and Derek Henderson, 50, of Church Road, Manchester.

Dent and Henderson pleaded guilty and the others were sent to trial at Newcastle Crown Court where they were found guilty after a three-week trial.

Two other men, including the lorry driver, were found not guilty.

After a legitimate delivery of frozen food was made in Warrington, the lorry was driven north to an industrial estate in Cramlington, Northumberland.

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs and the National Crime Squad raided the unit.

HM Revenue and Customs head of investigation for the North of England, Howard Leather said: "Not only does smuggling take money away from vital public services but in this case, the goods are highly dangerous.

"We have no way of knowing what ingredients are in these fake cigarettes, but we do know that they can pose serious health risks."

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