A London shop owner, who evaded £250,000 in tax importing tobacco and cigarettes from India, has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Kishor Shah, 63, of Elm Road, Wembley, hid some of his stash under a vegetable stall at the front of his shop, Paan Parlour on Ealing Road.
Together with Hitesh Patel, 41, a company director from Hanworth Road, Hounslow, they imported shipping containers loaded with cigarettes and tobacco from Mumbai.
Shah and Patel were rumbled when a sniffer dog found tobacco in lock-ups in Alperton Lane, Greenford on 19 July 2016. They were arrested by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers after driving on to the scene in a white Ford Transit van. The lock-up was searched and contained 44,500 cigarettes and 746kg of chewing tobacco. Shah led officers to his shop where 1,260 smuggled cigarettes were found.
Border Force had also seized two consignments coming through Felixstowe in June 2016, containing 200kg of snuff tobacco, 160kg of raw tobacco and 180kg of chewing tobacco. Patel had paperwork relating to the shipments at his business, Narayan Foods Ltd in Johnson Street, Southall.
A further 1.7 tonnes of chewing tobacco was found at another lock-up on the North Circular Road, Stonebridge Park on 22 July, 2016.
Shah failed to turn up for his trial at Blackfriars Crown Court on 23 July 2018, claiming he had fallen ill on a trip to India, but was tried in his absence.
Simon Kiefer, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“Criminals like Shah create an uneven playing field for legitimate businesses and put a burden on the honest majority. He thought his crime would go undetected but he was wrong.
“He evaded tax. Now he’s trying to evade justice and we need the help of the public to track him down so that he can begin his prison sentence.
“HMRC will continue to crack down on tax cheats who think stealing from the public is a legitimate way to do business. If you know of anyone committing tobacco fraud you can report them by calling our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
On 3 August, Shah was convicted and sentenced in his absence to four years in jail for smuggling tobacco. He received a further six months for offending while serving a suspended sentence for a similar offence in 2016. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Patel was jailed for two-and-a-half years. Both were disqualified from being a director for five years.