Beautician and her fiance avoid jail after trying to smuggle £60,000 worth of cigarettes into UK


A beautician and her fiance have avoided jail after they were caught trying to smuggle £60,000 worth of cigarettes into Britain.

Donna Jablonski, 38, and husband-to-be David Sutton, 30, were detained by Border Force Investigators at Manchester Airport after returning from a four-day ‘city break’ in Moscow, Russia.

But the couple, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, were found to have tried to sneak in 5,000 packets of 20 cigarettes inside their luggage which they intended to sell on to local shops. 

The average packet of 20 cigarettes costs £12.73 – with cheaper packs can costs £9.10 – meaning they were smuggling goods worth around £63,650. 

The amount of tax duty they attempted to dodge by their smuggling operation would have cost the taxpayer around £40,000 had the cigarettes been sold on.  

At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, mother-of-one Jablonski was given ten months jail suspended for 18 months and was told to complete 80 hours unpaid work.

Sutton, who had previous conviction for drug smuggling, was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered to complete 120 hours unpaid work.

Both admitted being concerned in the fraudulent evasion of duty on imported goods under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

Donna Jablonski, 38, and husband-to-be David Sutton, 30, (pictured together) were detained by Border Force investigators as they tried to sneak in 5,000 packets of 20 cigarettes inside their luggage

Donna Jablonski, 38, and husband-to-be David Sutton, 30, (pictured together) were detained by Border Force investigators as they tried to sneak in 5,000 packets of 20 cigarettes inside their luggage

The bust occurred on November 28, 2019 when the couple arrived in Manchester on a flight from Moscow via Helsinki in Finland.

Prosecutor Miss Martine Snowdon said: ‘They were stopped by border force officers at Manchester Airport. They asked Sutton what he knew about the cigarette allowance and he replied: “I thought you could bring back as many as you want”.

‘In total 55,800 cigarettes were found in Sutton’s possession. He said “I just bring them back for a guy in a shop”. Border force said this was the second time he had done this. The value of the duty evaded was £20,800.

‘Jablonski was found with 53,200 cigarettes in her possession, equating to the value of £20,411 in duty evaded. When asked by officers, she said “the bag is full, we sell them to a lot of foreign shops”.

‘Officers could see messages were coming through on the defendant’s phone saying “WTF man”, “what have you told them?” “Delete all your messages”. Both defendants answered no comment when interviewed.’

Donna Jablonski and David Sutton

The couple, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, were being questioned at Manchester Airport when it emerged they had been to Moscow in Russia for a four-day ‘city break’

Both admitted being concerned in the fraudulent evasion of duty on imported goods under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979

Both admitted being concerned in the fraudulent evasion of duty on imported goods under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979

In March 2016, Sutton was jailed for 12 months for importing a Class B drug. 

Jablonski had no previous criminal convictions.

In mitigation, defence counsel David Farley said: ‘They went to Russia for a four-day break. Sutton suffers from cerebral palsy and has literacy issues. This happened in November 2019 but it did not get to court until January 19, 2021. This is quite straight forward case.’

He added: ‘Mr Sutton can do some light work. Mr Sutton knows if he is caught again, he will go to prison.’

Sentencing Judge Maurice Greene told the couple: ‘You entered guilty pleas to fraudulent evasion at the first opportunity and therefore you are both entitled to full credit.

The bust occurred on November 28, 2019 when the couple (pictured) arrived in Manchester on a flight from Moscow via Helsinki in Finland

The bust occurred on November 28, 2019 when the couple (pictured) arrived in Manchester on a flight from Moscow via Helsinki in Finland

‘You were both caught red handed at Manchester Airport each with over 50,000 cigarettes and the duty evaded amounted to just over £20,000 each, £40,000 between the two of you.

‘Clearly, this was a joint effort. You both knew what you were doing. You obtained cigarettes abroad and you planned to sell them here.

‘This is a very serious matter. Jablonski, you have no previous convictions at all. However, you put your liability at risk and the care of your young daughter. 

‘If you were to go to custody, your daughter would not be in your possession for that period of time. You both had a leading role.

‘This offence took place in November 2019, but it did not appear before the court until January 2021. I know there is a problem with the ongoing pandemic but that is some significant delay.

‘I have to that into consideration the fact that you were caught so no actual duty was lost to the revenue. All these factors lead me to say it is not necessary to impose an immediate custodial sentence. I am going to suspend that custodial sentence.’

HM Revenue & Customs excise duty on packets of cigarettes is 16.5 per cent of the retail price plus £244.78 per 1,000 cigarettes. 

For cigars, it is £305.32 per kg, and tobacco is £271.40 per kg. 

As of 2017, the most expensive country in which to purchase cigarettes in Europe was the United Kingdom.

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