A Rochdale man, who tried to blame a ‘man in the pub’ for his illegal cigarette hoard, has been ordered to repay £115,000 or face another 10 months in jail.

Unemployed, Andrew Longbottom, 54, of Wardle, Rochdale, was caught in 2013 by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers with more than 127,200 illegal cigarettes and 68 kilos of tobacco in a rented storage unit. More cigarettes and over £18,700 in cash were found hidden behind a panel in his van.

He was jailed for 12 months for £38,000 tax evasion in November 2015. Further HMRC investigations found Longbottom had profited by another £77,000 from his crimes. Longbottom now has to repay all the stolen tax and criminal profits within 28 days or his jail term is increased.

Zoe Ellerbeck, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“Longbottom claimed he was storing and transporting the cigarettes for a man in his local pub, but bizarrely didn’t know his name. In reality, there was no other man- he lived off criminal cash, evading taxes and dealing in the cigarettes and tobacco for himself.

“This case shows that HMRC doesn’t stop at putting criminals behind bars. We will pursue and recover their ill-gotten gains, returning stolen taxpayers’ money to the public purse and making sure tax crime doesn’t pay.”

The court decided yesterday that Longbottom had benefited from his crimes by £115,000 and ordered him to repay £115,000 based on evidence of his assets provided by HMRC investigators including: the cash discovered hidden in his house and money from a property sale.