A PORT Glasgow businesswoman who left her homeland as a teenager to 'better herself in Scotland' has been spared jail for her role in a serious organised crime bid to evade almost £200,000 of tax on half-a-tonne of smuggled tobacco.

Greenock Sheriff Court heard Polish national Marta Kosciuk came to the UK as a 19-year-old to further her career opportunities - but ended up getting involved in the illegal scheme aimed at "defrauding Her Majesty".

The 37-year-old has been spared jail over her involvement in the fraudulent import scam.

Kosciuk had initially claimed that she was "tricked" into it, however, it emerged that she had willingly got in tow with a man referred to only as Mr X, who led the criminal enterprise.

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She pleaded guilty to "carrying, removing, depositing, harbouring, keeping or in any manner dealing with" half-a-tonne of hand rolling tobacco, having originally been charged with knowingly concealing more than a tonne with intent to withhold nearly £400,000 of payable duty.

The court heard she acted with other unidentified individuals in a bid to "defraud Her Majesty" of the duty payable on the goods - a sum of £191,520, reduced from £391,020.

Prosecutor Maria Murdoch told a hearing that the consignment came from mainland Europe and its final delivery address was in Paisley.


It was deposited by Kosciuk, who lives at Gourock Ropeworks in Port Glasgow, in June 2019 in a 20ft container at a storage site in Glasgow.

People involved in the crooked scheme posed as employees of a UK-based freight forwarding company, called Twente Express, which also operates out of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Kosciuk hired a Volkswagen Transporter van for a day in June 2019 and the assignments were collected from Belgium by another transport group before being picked up in Scotland by her.

The court heard that the two pallets, containing 24 brown boxes, initially didn't fit in her van and had to be broken up for onward transportation.

CCTV footage showed prominent tattoos on the van driver and tattoo parlour co-owner Kosciuk was later identified.

The National: Marta KosciukMarta Kosciuk (Image: NQ)

She told authorities that she was picking up the consignment for a friend and claimed to be from Latvia.

One of the boxes was damaged and inside was found to be yellow packets identified as Amber Leaf hand rolling tobacco.

Information was passed to HMRC's fraud investigation service and police then executed search warrants of a storage site in Glasgow's Jessie Street, Kosciuk's Bay Street address and a Maserati vehicle belonging to her.

Invoices, consignment labels, shipping documents and an A5 notepad with the heading 'Customs smuggling' written in Polish were among the items seized.

Officers also found search results relating to pallet cutting and other similar queries on an Apple Mac computer in her home, while a GPS tracker was discovered along with some tobacco.

After her arrest, she told police: "I believe I was tricked into something I did not know about."

The National: Marta KosciukMarta Kosciuk (Image: NQ)

Defence lawyer Craig Broadley told the court that first offender Kosciuk became involved through friends.

The solicitor said: "Initially she perceived it to be a legitimate business but she does accept that there came a point where she understood it was not legitimate.

"There were other people involved working for this man [Mr X] as well. She facilitated the storage unit for and with this man.

"She was asked to move pallets containing hand rolling tobacco from an address in Kirkintilloch to the storage unit in Jessie Street in Glasgow which was in her name."

Kosciuk advised police, her solicitor and the Crown of "Mr X's" name, but the court was told that no other legal proceedings are pending or ongoing regarding the case.

Attributing the offence to "poor decision making," Broadley said his client was "increasingly using cocaine at the time" but has been abstinent from the drug for more than three years.

He added: "I would submit that the court could just refrain from sending her into custody for two to three years."

Imposing a "high tariff" alternative to custody, Sheriff Anthony McGeehan said: "That there are such alternatives should not in any way be seen as detracting from the seriousness of this offence.

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"Proper payment of such duty is essential to maintain the public services on which we all rely."

Kosciuk was sentenced to 18 months of supervision and must complete 300 hours of unpaid work within the next year.

She will also have to wear an electronic tag and must remain at home between 7pm and 7am each night for 12 months.