Gospel Oak brothers smuggled £3million shisha tobacco from Dubai disguised as incense
PUBLISHED: 16:00 15 October 2013
Two brothers from Gospel Oak who smuggled £3million of tobacco into the UK by disguising it as incense have been jailed for a total of more than four years.
Mahfouz and Sayyeduz Chowdhury, both of Southampton Road, masterminded a plot that saw 5.8 tonnes of shisha tobacco shipped over from Dubai, disguised as Arabian incense.
The duo dodged more than £500,000 in duty by sticking false labels on thousands of packages imported from the United Arab Emirates city.
Elder brother Mahfouz, 30, was jailed for two years and four months and Sayyeduz, 28, received a two-year term at the Old Bailey yesterday.
They were sentenced after admitting conspiracy to evade duty on 5.8 tonnes of tobacco.
Four other Camden men were each given 12-week suspended sentences and 150 hours community service for conspiracy to evade duty on 300kg of tobacco.
The men were snared after border force officers discovered 2.2 tonnes of the flavoured tobacco in a consignment that arrived at Tilbury docks in April 2012, which was destined for the Sahar Lounge, a shisha cafe in Kilburn.
When the incense labels were peeled off, the original ones were found underneath.
Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) officers realised that the Chowdhurys had imported four other loads described as Arabian incense from Dubai in the previous six months, totalling 3.6 tonnes.
Photos of the repackaged tobacco and hundreds of text messages to others involved in the scheme were stored on mobile phones belonging to the brothers.
John Pointing, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC, said: “Led by the Chowdhury brothers, 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 four other men were sentenced in connection with the importation of 300kg of tobacco.
One of them was the co-director of the Sahar Lounge, Asadur Rahman, 30, of Plender Street, Camden Town, whose mobile contained texts discussing that 300kg shipment with the three others.
They were Mohbubur Rahman, 32, of Goldhurst Crescent, South Hampstead, Luthfur Rahman, 29, of Chalton Street, Somers Town, and Abdulah Al Mohammed Rafi, 32, of Ossulton Street, Somers Town.
* Anyone with information about tobacco smuggling and tax evasion should contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.
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