A man from Tower Hamlets has been jailed after attempting to smuggle over 40,000 cigarettes into UK.
Abdul Shelim, 33, from Stepney, was stopped by Customs officials at Heathrow Airport on June 9 after he had flown in from Bangladesh.
A search of Shelim’s luggage revealed three suitcases full of cartons of Benson & Hedges cigarettes, with only a small amount of clothing. Over 40,000 cigarettes were recovered, which amounted to a revenue loss of £12,783.
Shelim appeared at the Old Bailey on November 19, where he was sentenced to two months imprisonment.
Jennie Kendall, HM Revenue and Customs regional press officer for London, told ELL that tobacco smuggling is a major issue for the UK: “It is costing [the UK] £2 billion in lost revenue every year which could be funding hospitals and schools.”
Kendall also said that bringing cigarettes illegally into the UK has a negative effect on businesses: “Legitimate retailers are having to compete with the black market – it’s not a level playing field.”
She added: “Tobacco smuggling has a devastating impact on local communities. People who smuggle tobacco have no regard for who they are selling to. People on the street have no way knowing whether they are counterfeit products.”
The HMRC first introduced their key strategy: ‘Tackling Tobacco Smuggling’ in 2000. In their strategy proposal, the HMRC said they will introduce new technology and detection capability to target and tackle the organised criminals behind the fraud. They also want to “apply new powers of assessment and penalties” to deter potential offenders.
A confiscation hearing to recover the money lost from Shelim’s crime will take place next year on March 7.