Smuggler jailed after thwarted tobacco haul bid

John Keenan
John Keenan

A CRIMINAL who used a South Cave airstrip to smuggle tobacco into the country has been jailed.

Officers caught John Keenan on the M62 with 20kg of Amber Leaf and 100.5kg of Golden Virginia hand-rolling tobacco on which £15,615.59 duty should have been paid.

It had been smuggled into the country from France and Keenan picked it up from the Mount Airy airstrip in Beverley Road, South Cave, on January 22 this year.

Regular users of the airfield became suspicious of Keenan’s behaviour when they saw him walking down the middle of a runway and quickly unloading items from a four-seater Piper aircraft before driving off when he and his companion were challenged.

The police were called and Keenan was stopped by officers on the M62.

At Leeds Crown Court last week, Keenan claimed to have received £200 to collect the tobacco as a favour, but prosecutor Jonathan Sharp suggested his history showed he was a ‘principal participant’ in a smuggling enterprise for money.

The court also heard that Keenan, 48, of Chatsworth Avenue, Nevison, Pontefract, committed the offence whilst on bail after being arrested in June last year when thousands of pounds worth of stolen and counterfeit designer goods were seized from lock-ups he rented in Castleford.

In court Keenan admitted five charges of handling, seven of fraudulent evasion of duty, two of offering goods with false trademark, possessing criminal property and importing dutiable goods.

Judge Rodney Grant jailed him for two years three months, saying that continuing to commit crimes while on bail aggravated his situation.

Keenan, nicknamed John the Hat for regularly wearing a trilby, has previously served a jail sentence for illegally importing Viagra and wrote a book about his experience called A Stiff Sentence.