Nine criminals sentenced for elaborately concealing and selling untaxed cigarettes and tobacco

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A group of corner shop workers who evaded paying around £667,000 in tax by selling smuggled cigarettes and tobacco, have today (Friday 26 July) been jailed.

Overseen by Harem Kamishi, 33, the ‘businessmen’ would distribute smuggled cigarettes and tobacco across their Kent-based shops, selling them at a cheaper price than taxed goods.

The group initially concealed the untaxed cigarettes and tobacco in wire racks under the floor and compartments activated using a lollipop stick by the till.

Once HMRC and Trading Officers discovered some of the shops were selling untaxed cigarettes, the group were forced to use increasingly elaborate methods to hide their profitable stock.

Cigarettes were found concealed under the kitchen floor in one shop, which could only be accessed using a remote control that was hidden in a crate of drink cans- and had to be activated with a suction puller.

concealments

In another shop selling taxed cigarettes and tobacco, officers discovered a key fob which activated a floor tile to mechanically raise, revealing four shelves of untaxed goods.

Kim Holden of the CPS, said: “The network used increasingly elaborate methods to hide the smuggled cigarettes and tobacco, knowing what they were doing was completely outside the law. They treated their criminal activity like a game of hide and seek, but this was a game they were always destined to lose.”

The defendants have been jailed for a collective 17 years after five were found guilty and four defendants pleaded guilty to fraudulent evasion of duty chargeable on goods, namely cigarettes and tobacco at earlier hearings.

Building the case

The shop workers tried to deny their involvement in the operation, but ultimately the wealth of evidence against them was able to prove their involvement beyond doubt.

A van containing receipts for tobacco products from Belgium, as well as 100,000 cigarettes was seized and found to be registered to one of the defendants, Shamal Mohammed Najib, 44.

Many of the shops involved in the smuggling network were registered under aliases, but this cover was quickly blown when prosecutors realised the defendants had used the same alias for their own social media accounts.

Harem Kamishi tried to keep his distance from the operation and wiped his phone, but when the deleted data was recovered, documents relating to the shops, a list of tobacco brands and prices, as well as a picture of a shop sign installation were found.

These signs helped us to cement the network’s connection, as all of the shops had used the same company for their signage under Kamishi’s instruction.

When Kamishi was arrested, a packet of cigarettes in Polish packaging was discovered in his Mercedes.

As the investigation delved deeper and more arrests were made, Mohammed Najib accepted that sometimes he did buy cheap cigarettes from Polish people and would sell them for profit.

Komar Ali Mohammed, 29, also admitted that he knew how to operate the concealments and thought he’d made a mistake trusting his boss that there was nothing wrong with hiding the cigarettes.

Kim Holden continued: “This network of corrupt shopkeepers was driven by deception, creating increasingly complicated devices to conceal their haul of untaxed cigarettes and tobacco. Even when there was a wealth of evidence against them, the network still tried to deny their criminality, lies which we were able to disprove throughout the trials.”

Notes to editors

Kim Holden is a Specialist Prosecutor in the Specialist Fraud Division for the CPS

  • Yassir Karim (14/05/1992) has today been given a 12 month community order and 90 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to fraudulent evasion of duty chargeable on goods, namely cigarettes and tobacco on 2 July 2019 at Southwark Crown Court

Mohammed Rashid Mahmoud (02/03/1995) pleaded guilty on 11 December 2018 to fraudulent evasion of duty chargeable on goods, namely cigarettes and tobacco at Southwark Crown Court and has today been given a 24 week suspended sentence, as well as 200 hours unpaid work.  

The below defendants were sentenced on 4 July 2019

  • Karwan Omar (15/02/1991) has been sentenced to 190 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to fraudulent evasion of duty chargeable on goods, namely cigarettes and tobacco at on 4 July 2019 at Southwark Crown Court.
  • Aryan Majid Karim (01/01/1984) has been issued with a fine after pleading guilty to fraudulent evasion of duty chargeable on goods, namely cigarettes and tobacco on 2 July 2019 at Southwark Crown Court

The below defendants were sentenced on 26 June 2019 following an earlier trial after being found guilty on 20 June 2019 of fraudulent evasion of duty chargeable on goods, namely cigarettes and tobacco.

  • Harem Kamishi (15/06/1986), sentenced to 4 years 3 months
  • Mohammed Hasan Mohammed (07/05/1983), sentenced to 3 years 6 months
  • Shamal Mohammed Najib (01/01/1975), sentenced to 3 years 9 months.
  • Komar Ali Mohammed aka Dani Adam (01/01/1990), sentenced to 2 years 3 months.
  • Star Ali Fatah aka Dyar Jalal Hama (01/01/1986), sentenced to 3 years 3 months.

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