Hull shop owner jailed for illegal tobacco haul

Illicit cigarettes in a boxImage source, HMRC
Image caption,
Officers seized a haul of cigarettes stashed in self-storage containers

A shopkeeper has been jailed for five years after one million illegal cigarettes were seized by customs.

Aras Rasul Rashid, of Spring Bank, Hull, was caught with large amounts of cigarettes and tobacco stashed in self-storage containers.

Sniffer dogs detected the haul in 2015, Hull Crown Court heard. Duty, estimated at £670,000, had not been paid.

Rashid, 40, had been found guilty of conspiracy to evade excise duty at the same court in 2017.

Edmundas Smiltniekas, 37, of Freeman Road, Gravesend, Kent, was also sentenced for his involvement in the plot.

False labelling

Officers seized 1,110,040 cigarettes and 116 stones (736kg) of hand-rolling tobacco from containers at Titan Containers AC, Freightliner Road, Hull, rented by Rashid.

His flat was searched and £15,220 in cash was found and officers also searched the Bekhal General Store, on Spring Bank, that he ran.

Investigations found three consignments of cigarettes into the UK had been falsely labelled as marine plywood.

Rashid, who was sentenced on Friday, was arrested at Stansted Airport in May 2016 as he entered the country from Norway.

Image source, HMRC
Image caption,
This was a "shocking attempt to flood the streets with illicit tobacco", said HMRC

Sandra Smith, of Her Majesty's Revenue and Custom (HMRC) said: "This was a shocking attempt to flood the streets with illicit tobacco.

"Rashid thought it was acceptable to line his pockets with money which should have been used to fund our public services."

The court also heard Smiltniekas had packed cigarettes into boxes in London before they were sent to Hull.

He admitted handling and packing them in July 2017 and received a 12-month suspended sentence.

A third suspect who did not attend court is being pursued by HMRC.

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