Two men have been sentenced for their part in a plot to smuggle almost 600,000 cigarettes, worth an estimated £160,000 in lost revenue, into the UK.
In April officers from Revenue and Customs watched student Alan Salih, from London, and delivery driver Karzan Ahmedi, 28, of Somerhill Avenue, Hove, meet in Edmonton, north London. Shortly after, the men drove to a nearby residential street where they parked their vehicles back-to-back with the rear doors open.
Revenue and Customs officers intercepted the pair and found almost 600,000 cigarettes in the vans. Both Salih and Ahmedi were arrested on suspicion of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of excise duty.
The pair were charged the following day.
David Margree, the assistant director of criminal investigation at Revenue and Customs, said: “Tobacco smuggling is a serious offence, depriving the taxpayer and the economy of around £2 billion a year.
“Salih and Ahmedi thought their criminal actions would go undetected. They were wrong and are facing the consequences.
“Anyone with information regarding tobacco and alcohol fraud is encouraged to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 595000.”
A search of Salih’s white transit van revealed 96,000 Mayfair cigarettes in unmarked brown boxes, while Ahmedi’s white rental van contained 502,000 Mayfair cigarettes, also in unmarked brown boxes. Both consignments of cigarettes were seized.
Ahmedi pleaded guilty to the charges before the trial started. He was jailed for eight months and ordered to pay £100 costs.
Salih pleaded not guilty and was found guilty on Wednesday 24 September after a two-day trial. He was given a one-year prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 250 hours of community work.
Judge Rosa Dean said on sentencing today: “Both of you were involved in serious, organised and professional criminal activity and fully understood the scale of the offence.”