Illegal tobacco paid for lavish lifestyle

Preston Crown Court
Preston Crown Court
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A CAFE owner who lived a lavish lifestyle on profits made from illegal tobacco could be forced to sell his home to repay his ill-gotten gains.

Dale Hitchin, 40, was jailed following a raid at his home on Rixton Grove, Cleveleys, in 2009, after it was discovered he was selling foreign cigarettes illegally.

Hitchin was also using his business on Dickson Road, Blackpool, as a base for his illicit trading.

He appeared before courts in February when he was jailed for 20 months for mortgage fraud and money laundering offences.

And at a Proceeds of Crime hearing, Preston Crown Court heard how Hitchin had benefited from his crime by £390,000.

He was ordered to pay back around £54,000 or face a further 12 months in prison.

Alan Todd, financial investigator for Lancashire Police, said it was likely Hitchin would be forced to sell his home and a holiday apartment in Turkey.

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He said: “He was spending a lot of time in Turkey, his partner was living there for months on end.

“He was living the lifestyle over there, he had at least one apartment.

“We don’t know the full extent of his life over there because the Turkish authorities are not forthcoming.

“But we had intelligence on him for a number of years prior to the raid.

“We believe he was also involved in selling counterfeit goods and clothing and had a number of people working for him.

“He had come to the attention of customs on a number of occasions.

“It got to the point where he thought he was above the law, whenever we wanted to interview him he was travelling the world on a cruise ship somewhere.

“He told people his extra income was from gambling but following thorough investigation we found he was selling illegal tobacco from his cafe in Blackpool.”

Police said they used the legislation to show the public criminals would not benefit from their life of crime.

Mr Todd added that it was in the public interest that the money be recouped and put back into the public purse.

He said: “Law abiding residents do not want to see criminals living a lavish lifestyle that is financed by their ill-gotten gains.

“That is why we use the Proceeds of Crime Act to strip them of the money and possessions they have amassed through their behaviour.”