Large scale tobacco theft at cigarette factory

Four men confess to their part in a large heist at a Lower Hutt cigarette factory. Photo / File
Four men confess to their part in a large heist at a Lower Hutt cigarette factory. Photo / File

Workers at a Lower Hutt tobacco factory have confessed to smuggling more than $100,000 worth of tobacco in hollowed-out bread loaves and concealed bags.

Fairfax reported 10 staff at Imperial Tobacco were arrested in August after security cameras footage revealed an inside operation where large quantities of the contraband were stolen from the Petone factory.

Those arrested included two security guards and a family member of an employee.

Four men this week admitted their part in the heist. The details of how they were able to smuggle so much out of the factory were revealed when they appeared in the Hutt Valley District Court this week.

Fairfax said Mika Lemoe, 52, who admitted taking $45,000 worth of tobacco, stole around 8kg of rolled tobacco a week.

He was caught on camera carrying a large quantity into a room where it should not have been and then took some in a bag to the guardhouse where he was allowed to leave without having his bag searched.

Police found about 21kg of tobacco, worth about $32,000, at his home.

Fairfax reported Terrence Andrew Whitcombe, 32, who worked in tailor-made cigarette production, was caught hollowing out a loaf of bread into a plastic bag before putting packs of cigarettes inside.

When authorities searched his home they found about $975 worth of cigarettes and just under $5000 worth in a steel work cabinet he used to stash stolen smokes.

Sui Mano, 26, who admitted stealing $120,000 worth of tobacco, was filmed with two others taking tobacco into a room amd was then seen carrying sports bags to the guardhouse.

The bags were then passed through a window to the car park.

Mano said he was paid $10,000 for his part in the theft.

An unnamed security guard has also admitted his part in the theft.

The men have been remanded on bail, ahead of sentencing next month.

- NZ Herald

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