Connolly booked 131 smuggling trips for himself and others using discounted employee travel privileges

An Easyjet flight attendant who led a cigarette smuggling gang has been handed a confiscation order for almost £350,000.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found Easyjet worker Dennis Connolly, 44, of Southport, had organised over 130 smuggling trips for himself and five others, using discounted staff tickets to travel.

The gang hid cigarettes and tobacco, worth £180,000 in evaded duty and taxes, in their luggage.

Connolly and his accomplice, Terence Steele, 58, from Croxteth, were each issued with confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act at Manchester Crown Court yesterday.

Connolly, of Hawkshead Street, was found to have benefitted from the smuggling by £348,705.

A confiscation order for the full amount was issued and he was ordered to repay £21,543 within three months, or 15 months will be added to the jail sentence he is serving.

Last year he was jailed for 21 months after admitting conspiring to deal in smuggled goods and evade duty tax.

Steele, of Abbotsbury Way, was given a confiscation order for £111,671 and ordered to repay £109,297 within three months or serve two years in jail.

Zoe Ellerbeck, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC, said:

“Airline employees hold a position of trust and abusing this privilege is a serious matter. Connolly organised subsidised travel purely for smuggling purposes. There are no excuses for smuggling, whatever your status, and HMRC are determined to recover stolen taxes.

“Tobacco fraud costs honest taxpayers more than £2.1 billion a year, undercutting honest businesses, and drawing people into wider criminality. Anyone with information about illicit tobacco sales or smuggling should contact the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

Connolly and Steele made large purchases of duty-free tobacco in Spain and Portugal for the gang to smuggle back to the UK.

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