March 8 2014 Latest news:
Lorraine King, News editor
Monday, October 14, 2013
Six men have been sentenced for their role in a gang which smuggled shisha tobacco into the UK to use in a café in Kilburn.
Brothers Mahfouz Chowdhury, 30, and Sayyeduz Chowdhury, 28, were the ringleaders of the group which arranged for more than 5.8 tonnes of the tobacco to be brought into the UK.
The Old Bailey heard the gang avoided more than £500,000 tax.
The men were snared after officers from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) discovered 2,200 packages claiming to be Arabian incense in a shipment from Dubai in April last year.
When the false labels were removed the true contents were revealed.
The consignment, weighed 2.2 tonnes, was destined for Sahar Lounge Ltd, which operates a shisha café in Willesden Lane which the brothers are directors of.
Further enquiries revealed that the brothers had arranged four previous importations from the United Arab Emirates in the previous six months, each described as Arabian incense.
The shipments weighed 3.6 tonnes and arrived via Heathrow Airport and the Port of Felixstowe.
The Chowdhury were arrested and when their mobile phones were seized and analysed photographs of the tobacco being repackaged, and hundreds of text messages to other people involved in the smuggling and distribution of the tobacco were uncovered.
These included Sunit Vekaria, who had paid Mahfouz Chowdhury more than £10,000 to buy shisha tobacco in Dubai, and Asadur Rahman, a co-director of Sahar Lounge Ltd.
Rahman’s mobile revealed texts discussing a 300kg importation to and from Luthfur Rahman, Abdulah Al Mohammed Rafi and Mohbubur Rahman.
John Pointing from 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.”
Adel Al-Khazraji of Wembley and Sunit Vekaria of Harrow will be sentenced at the same court next month.