Man who helped to smuggle 10m cigarettes into the country sentenced to three years in jail
A man who facilitated the importation of ten million cigarettes from the Netherlands by supplying the necessary documentation to get the containers into the country has been sentenced to three years.
Graham Costigan (42) of Santry Court, Santry Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to evasion of excise duty and attempted evasion of excise duty on cigarettes on September 16, 2013. The potential loss to the exchequer was more than €4 million.
Detective Garda Paul Kane said that Costigan was not the principal target of the operation. He said six men including Costigan and the driver of a lorry were arrested but Costigan was the only one who was charged.
He told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that the container transporting the cigarettes was stopped on the M1 in Dublin.
Three men who were shadowing the lorry in a Toyota Landcruiser were arrested but refused to co-operate with gardaí during questioning.
A fourth man who was seen paying the purported duty on the container on CCTV and who used his company as “a cloak” to facilitate the scheme, was also never charged.
Costigan made immediate admissions when arrested. He said he had been supplied with a laptop and his role was to e-mail a number of documents, including packing lists, to facilitate the transport of the cigarettes from Singapore to the Netherlands and ultimately into Ireland.
Det Gda Kane said Costigan was familiar with the procedure for clearing goods from a previous job and knew what was needed to bring the containers into this country.
He agreed with Michael Bowman SC, defending, that Costigan had never been on the garda radar and was not the “principal target” of the garda operation. He has no previous convictions.
Mr Bowman said his client acknowledged that he got involved in a business transaction he was suspicious of and that he strongly suspected, because of the other men involved, that cigarettes would be in the container.
“He was left isolated and immediately identifiable,” counsel said “He was completely disposable and once he was arrested, the people who used and exploited his vulnerability, assumed he would know better than to name names.”
Judge Melanie Greally said Costigan had been specifically chosen for his ability to create the appropriate digital footprint but acknowledged that he had co-operated with the garda investigation and saved the State considerable difficulty.
She said the scale of the attempted evasion “could not be overlooked” considering that it is a crime which is particularly difficult to detect due to the volume of cargo coming through the ports.
Judge Greally noted Costigan's previous good character and good employment history but said he had got involved with “his eyes open and for monetary gain”.
She also acknowledged that the evidence proved that Costigan was neither the instigator nor the primary beneficiary of the crime.
Judge Greally said the “public interest requires that a custodial sentence be imposed” before she sentenced Costigan to three years in prison with the final 18 months suspended on strict conditions.
Det Gda Kane said the documentation with the container indicated that it contained posts and fencing.
Following the seizure of the cigarettes a number of business premises were searched and laptops, mobile phones and tablets were seized. Evidence gathered from the analysis of this equipment led to Costigan's arrest.
Det Gda Kane said Costigan made a number of admissions in garda interviews after various documents were put to him.
He said Costigan was co-operative with the gardaí and confirmed that there were people higher up in the operation than him.
Det Gda Kane confirmed that Costigan had bought a furniture company in 2011 but it later failed. He accepted that Costigan was in fear of the others involved and that was reasonable considering who they were.
He further accepted that Costigan had no control over the amount of cigarettes shipped in and the State was never at a loss of excise and duty because the haul had been seized by gardaí.
Det Gda Kane told Judge Greally that it was his understanding, although it was never confirmed, that Costigan was to get a sum of cash for his role.
Mr Bowman handed in a number of testimonials into court on behalf of Costigan. He said his client was deeply ashamed of his actions and lost his most recent job due to the publicity surrounding the case.