Importer caught ‘trying to make a fast buck’ by evading £300k duty

Border Force officials found the tobacco. Picture: HMRC

Border Force officials found the tobacco. Picture: HMRC - Credit: Archant

A man who evaded nearly £300,000 in tax importing a shipping container loaded with shisha tobacco through the Port of Felixstowe has been given a suspended sentence.

Harmit Singh, who was given a two year suspended sentence for evading duty. Picture: HMRC

Harmit Singh, who was given a two year suspended sentence for evading duty. Picture: HMRC - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Crown Court heard that company director Harmit Singh, 43, attempted to smuggle 2,805 kg of Al Fakher branded shisha from India but “slipped trying to make a fast buck and got caught”.

The tobacco was seized by officers working for Border Force. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estimate Singh, of Hayes, tried to evade £291,467 in duty.

Investigators searched his house and found paperwork which showed his company, SS Importers (UK) Limited, had been selling and distributing shisha tobacco in the UK.

Judge David Goodin told Singh: “You are a man who takes his responsibilities seriously and who only wants the best for his household. How ironic then that you have done your best to get sent straight to prison where you can be of no use to them at all.

Some of the tobacco found at the Port of Felixstowe. Picture: HMRC

Some of the tobacco found at the Port of Felixstowe. Picture: HMRC - Credit: Archant


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“You have got yourself in this position through greed. As an experienced trader, by dodging the duty, with obvious enriching consequences to yourself, £300,000 has been lost to the exchequer, to this country. When you have a moment, pop into your local school or hospital and ask them what they could do with £300,000? Not that this concerned you.

“There is no sensible doubt at all that a man of your business acumen and intelligence knew that he wasn’t dealing with ‘a few smokes’. You knew that this was a significant amount (of tobacco).

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“You slipped trying to make a fast buck and got caught. I have no doubt you are thoroughly ashamed.”

Singh admitted excise fraud and was sentenced to two years prison suspended for two years. He will have to do 240 hours’ unpaid work, be tagged, follow a curfew order and pay £2,500 costs.

Brett Wilkinson, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Criminals like Singh 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.

“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.”

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