£540,000 up in Smoke for Carlo Citrone
Popular British professional, Carlo Citrone is facing more time in prison. Citrone, who was convicted of tobacco smuggling in 2004, has been ordered to pay £370,000 or face another spell in jail.
Carlo Citrone has recently lost a three year "tug of war" with authorities over money confiscated from fellow tobacco smuggler Pradeep Bahanda. Bahanda is currently serving a three year prison term for a scam to sell illegal black market cigarettes from ice cream vans.
Before his conviction, Bahanda was stopped with associate Keith Neilson at Newcastle Airport as the pair tried to take £167,194 on to a flight to Belgium, in January 2003.
As HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) officers applied to detain the cash, Carlo Citrone came forward to to stake his claim for the money, saying it was his float for a Paris poker tournament.
However, JPs in Gosforth, Newcastle dismissed Citrone's claims, ordering the money to be paid to HM Customs under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
An HMRC spokeswoman said: "We're committed to using the full powers of the Act to remove cash and assets from the criminal food chain, and this case demonstrates the success of the Act. Criminals have to explain where cash in their possession has legitimately come from or face the consequences."
According to Adam Jupp of The Evening Chronicle, "Citrone has also been ordered to fork out £370,000 under the Act to cover the profits he made from his large-scale smuggling swindle."
"In February 2004, Citrone was sentenced to two years for sneaking 2.6 million fake cigarettes through Southampton. He masterminded the plot with associate William Howard, of Middridge, County Durham. They claimed the cargo belonged to a man who was moving from Cambodia to Northumberland."
"After his release, Citrone continued to claim the £167,194 seized from Bahanda was his and the legal wrangle re-started. He also launched a bid to reclaim $23,000 (£11,408) seized from him last August, when he arrived at Gatwick from Las Vegas."
With his claim on the £167,194 seized from Bahanda now lost and a £370,000 fine to cover the profits made from the smuggling, Citrone will feel over half a million pounds poorer this morning.
Andrew Bird, prosecuting for the HMRC, said: "We submit that the true reason why all three told lies about the cash is that they knew it had come from cigarette smuggling or that it was intended for use in Belgium for the purpose of paying for cigarettes. If it was Mr Citrone's legitimate gambling money why on earth did Mr Bahanda not say so when questioned by Customs?"
Citrone was made bankrupt upon his release from prison as his company, Avanti Fitness, announced debts of over £3.2 million. He has recently become a presenter on the newly launched Sky Poker TV channel. He is also a sponsored player as part of the Dusk Till Dawn poker team.
Ed note: Play live on TV with Sky Poker