Six tobacco smugglers have been sentenced at the Old Bailey after being involved in illegal importation of shisha tobacco into the United Kingdom. The arrests came after HM Revenue & Customers (“HMRC”) amounted their biggest ever investigation into contraband shisha tobacco. The operation began in April 2013 after the Border Force Offices at Tilbury docks discovered 2.2 tonnes of shisha consignment from Dubai.
HMRC’s Investigation: Importation of Shisha Tobacco
Two brothers, Mahfouz Chowdhury and Sayyeduz Chowdhury both from London, were the masterminds behind the operation which involved the transportation of 5.8 tonnes of shisha tobacco into the UK. The operation caused a excise duty loss of more than £0.5 million as the 2,200 packages had false labels which when removed, revealed the true contents to be shisha tobacco.
The consignments were destined for various shisha cafes across the UK. When the criminal gang were arrested the authorities discovered large amounts of photographs of tobacco, and hundreds of text messages to other gangs involved in illegal smuggling and transportation of tobacco.
HMRC’s Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, John Pointing stated:
“ …the gang looked to flood London streets with illegal shisha and pocket the taxes due. We are investing more time and resources than ever in tackling the threat posed to the UK economy by tobacco smuggling and will not cease in our efforts to stamp out this trade.”
The investigation also uncovered that the two brothers had set up four previous importations from the United Arab Emirates over the previous six months, each one described as Arabian incense.
Tobacco Smuggling into the United Kingdom
The two brothers were sentenced by Judge Gerald Gordon for a period of two years. Two other members of the gang were sentenced for 12 weeks in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 150 hours of community service. A further two men will be sentenced on Friday 1 November 2013.
These investigations and arrests demonstrates that the police and HMRC are cracking down on tax evasion, with specific emphasis on smuggling tobacco and the evasion of duty tax.
If you are concerned about an investigation by HMRC alleging such evasion you should take professional legal advice.