A RUGBY man who was stopped at Luton airport with two suitcases crammed with almost 20,000 cigarettes claimed they were all for himself and his wife.
But after hearing it was not the first time Peter Bojkun had been stopped with huge quantities of cigarettes, a jury at Warwick Crown Court convicted him of evading duty on them.
The case was adjourned for medical and pre-sentence reports to be prepared on Bojkun, 56, of Newbold Road, Rugby, and he was granted bail.
Prosecutor Edmund Blackman said Bojkun was stopped by Border Force officers as he went through the blue channel after he arrived at Luton airport on a flight from Slovakia in August 2018.
He had a large suitcase and a smaller one which were found to be crammed full of packets of cigarettes, and a small holdall containing personal items.
There were a total of 19,840 cigarettes, but when he was questioned, Bojkun said they were all for personal use for him and his family, and denied he was bringing them in for a commercial purpose.
He said he had had an operation, and was travelling back to the UK for a medical appointment – and he was planning to leave the cigarettes at his home in Rugby before returning to Slovakia.
Bojkun said he was then planning to return by car with his wife, who does not like flying, adding that they spend winters in this county but go to Slovakia in the summer.
Mr Blackman said 13,200 of the cigarettes, 660 packets, were Winston Expression, 3,400 were Benson and Hedges, 2,400 were Winston Blue, and there were smaller quantities of three other types.
There was £5,817.78 duty payable on them unless they were genuinely only for personal use or as gifts and duty had been paid on them in the country of origin.
Giving evidence, Bojkun said he had lived in the UK since 2008, but moved between here and Slovakia.
He used to work for Tesco, but was now unable to work after having spinal surgery following an accident in 2016.
Bojkun told the jury he and his wife smoked five packets of cigarettes a day between them, but Mr Blackman suggested he was exaggerating, having told the police they smoked two packets.
Bojkun said he would buy large quantities of cigarettes when he was visiting Slovakia because they were far cheaper, around four euros a packet.
And he insisted: “I have never sold cigarettes I have brought in. I would buy in bulk to get us through the winter. The cigarettes would have lasted us four months or less.”
But Mr Blackman pointed out that although he had not been charged on those occasions, Bojkun had had large quantities of cigarettes seized from him previously.
At Dover in 2017 some 42,000 were seized, and in April the following year 21,000 were seized, together with his car.
Mr Blackman suggested he would not keep taking that risk if he was not doing it to make money.
And he commented to the jury: “Why does someone who is in and out of the country as regularly as he is need to bring that many back in one go?
“He keeps doing it despite cigarettes being confiscated and, on one occasion, his car. That is not a person wanting to save money, that’s someone taking a calculated risk for profit.”
The jury took less than two hours to find Bojkun guilty, and at the request of his barrister Callum Church, Recorder Rachel Brand QC agreed to adjourn for reports to be prepared on him.
She remarked: “It may be there is a decision to be made here about whether it crosses the custody threshold. If it doesn’t, I may well be thinking of some sort of financial order.”