A couple who paid for their Northampton house through a tobacco smuggling scam have been ordered to pay back more than £80,000 of their ill-gotten gains.
Nearly 180,000 illegal cigarettes were discovered in the garage of Rimandas Urvakis, 59, and his wife Marija Urvakiene, 61, by HM Revenue and Customs in 2011.
The fraud was uncovered when Northamptonshire Police spotted Urvakis meeting with a lorry driver in a car park off the M1 outside Northampton just before midnight in November 2011.
After placing two bags into the boot of his Volkswagen Passat, Urvakis drove away before being pulled over by the officers moments later. Inside the VW, police discovered 13 kilos of non-duty paid hand-rolling tobacco. Urvakis was arrested and the case passed to HMRC, who searched his home in Howards Way, Moulton.
Despite his wife Urvakiene’s attempt to hide the keys, HMRC investigators found more than 179,000 non-duty paid cigarettes in the garage.
At a Northampton Crown Court hearing yesterday, judge Michael Fowler ordered that both Urvakis and Urvakiene paid back a combined sum of £80,306.
The judge gave the couple until October 5 to cough up, which he said would give them enough time to sell the house in Moulton they had bought with the proceeds of their crimes.
He said: "If property has got to be sold to achieve that then it has got to be placed on the market at a price that will realise those sums in that time."
Five weeks into the investigation back in 2011, HMRC searched the pair’s home again, uncovering more than 5,000 non-duty paid cigarettes, 3.3 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and £3,700 in cash.
In March 2012, the couple were charged with the fraudulent evasion of excise duty and money laundering offences
Investigations revealed factory workers Urvakis and Urvakiene had secured a mortgage on their £170,000 house with a £30,000 deposit and made regular repayments while living off the proceeds of the fraud.
Both admitted money laundering and Urvakis admitted evading £37,145.30 in duty at Northampton Crown Court on 27 January 2017.
At the same court on February 13, 2017, Urvakis was sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work. His wife Urvakiene was sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.