Court stubs out tobacco sellers

Convicted - Hatim Omar
Convicted - Hatim Omar

TWO men who sold almost £1 million worth of smuggled cigarettes and tobacco from a Doncaster mini market have been jailed for a total of 11 years.

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs found some of the 2,250,000 cigarettes and 66,000 pouches of tobacco had been disguised as a bed in one raid.

Convicted - Nawzad Mustafa

Convicted - Nawzad Mustafa

They seized thousands of pounds of goods in four separate visits to the Sunrise Mini Market in St Sepulchre Gate West over a period of seven months.

Illegal products were found hidden in various places - including in a locked sweet cabinet, under a pile of onions and in the sleeves of a hanging jacket.

The duty lost on their fraudulent dealings is estimated at £985,000.

Shop owner Nawzad Kamel Mustafa, 31, had his house searched which revealed the men had been trading in smuggled cigarettes and tobacco between May 2009 and September last year.

The flat of Hatim Tahir Omar, 26, who was looking after the shop on three of the four visits, was also raided as part of the operation.

Officers found he had attempted to disguise some of the contraband by building it into the shape of a bed.

Speaking after the hearing, Bob Gaiger, from HMRC, said: “These criminals, despite being warned on several occasions, continued to flout the law by selling smuggled and unregulated tobacco products.

“Their criminal activities made them huge profits at the expense of honest shopkeepers.”

A third man involved in the scam, Botan Azizi, was caught in a further twist to the investigation in June.

Police intercepted Azizi, 26, as he placed a large black bin liner into the back of a car in Rotherham. The bin liner contained approximately 6,000 Jin Ling cigarettes - a brand not legally sold in the UK.

Mustafa, of St James Street, Hyde Park, was jailed for six years. Omar, of Sandringham Road, Intake, received a five year prison term.

Both were found guilty of two offences of dealing in non-duty excise goods.

Azizi, from Rotherham, was found guilty of one offence of the same charge. He was also charged and pleaded guilty to obstruction.

He received six weeks custody for each offence suspended for two years.

All three men were found guilty after an 11 day trial at Doncaster Crown Court. They were sentenced last Thursday.

Information about smuggling activity should be reported to the HRMC hotline on 0800 595000.