A CHARITY boss had to resign as a trustee after the Echo revealed his past as an international cigarette smuggler.

Richard Sheridan, 40, of Oak Lane, Crays Hill, has been forced to resign as a trustee of the Comic Relief-funded Gypsy Council.

He will remain its president until next month’s annual meeting, according to representatives.

The Charity Commission, a watchdog for all UK charities, launched an investigation in February after the Echo’s special investigation revealed he was twice jailed for 12 months in 2004 and 2006 for involvement in a gang estimated to have smuggled 67 million cigarettes into the UK.

The convictions should have disqualified him from being a trustee, under the Charities Act 1993.

Jo Moir, commission spokeswoman, said: “After verifying the trustee was disqualified, we instructed him to stand down immediately.” Mr Sheridan resigned earlier this month.

He was also a parent governor at Crays Hill Primary School, but had not disclosed the convictions and resigned following February’s expose.

He joined the Gypsy Council in April 2006, two months before being jailed after admitting importing 1.2 million fake cigarettes from Belgium.

In 2007 Comic Relief gave the charity a £16,300 grant.

Last October, Mr Sheridan also became a director of the business arm of the charity when there was a shake-up of membership. He has also resigned from that post.

Several previous directors on both the charitable and business arm of the Gypsy Council resigned in October last year.

They were replaced by Mr Sheridan and several other people heavily involved in the campaign to legalise Dale Farm, including Grattan Puxon, Thomas Acton, North Norfolk district councillor Candy Sheridan and Andrew Ryder.

The charity’s accounts say the Gypsy Council has since increased support for “charitable activities” at Dale Farm.

Last September Mr Acton launched a whipround, saying: “The Gypsy Council has run out of money.”

Mr Puxon said: “Mr Sheridan is no longer a trustee.

“The commission has explained people with certain convictions cannot be trustees.

“But he has played a very strong role in the Gypsy Council and remains its president.”