Caught red-handed: Harold Hill lorry driver smuggling 24,000 litres of beer
PUBLISHED: 14:07 27 August 2014 | UPDATED: 14:21 27 August 2014
A retired lorry driver who smuggled 24,000 litres of beer into the UK has been spared jail today.
Brian Gutteridge, 66, of Briar Road, Harold Hill drove a trailer filled with illegal booze from Calais, France, into the country.
The 25 pallets of alcohol were snuck past customs officers to cheat the government out of around £35,000 worth of excise duty and VAT.
Gutteridge was caught red-handed as he was unloading the lorry at a warehouse in Tilbury, Essex.
He pleaded guilty to fraudulent evasion of duty on the first day of his trial at the Old Bailey.
The judge, Mr Recorder Levett, said: “On August 22, 2012, you carried out some work as a lorry driver which required you to go to Calais and return back, swapping a trailer at Tilbury and then delivering goods which were subject to duty in the region of £35,000.
“The authorities intercepted this by apprehending everyone when they were unloading the lorry at Best Price Cash and Carry.
“The offence was fraudulent at the outset - the delivery address was texted to you on the boat coming back from Calais.”
The illegal goods were all recovered by the authorities and there was no actual loss to the government.
Gutteridge, who suffers from a number of health problems including diabetes and arthritis, was jailed for 18 months in 1998 for smuggling tobacco into the UK.
He was stopped two months before the August scam with smuggled goods and let off with a warning.
Gutteridge was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment suspended for two years and banned from holding a driving licence for six months.
He pleaded guilty to being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of duty chargeable on goods, namely a consignment of alcoholic beverages, on August 22, 2012.