A London shop owner, who evaded £250,000 in tax importing tobacco and cigarettes from India, has been sentenced for four-and-a-half years in jail.
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.
“Criminals like Shah create an uneven playing field for legitimate businesses and put a burden on the honest majority,” said Simon Kiefer, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC.
On August 3, 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.
Kiefer requested the help of public to track Shah down so that he can begin his prison sentence.
Patel was jailed for two-and-a-half years. Both were disqualified from being a director for five years.