Islington shisha smuggler sentenced for £230,000 tax fraud

Shisha pipes outside a London cafe (stock image).

An Islington man has been sentenced after he was caught smuggling shisha tobacco into the UK from Dubai - Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

An Islington man who smuggled thousands of kilograms of shisha tobacco through UK airports has been sentenced. 

A HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation found that Ahmed Elamin, of Calthorpe Street, had sent nearly 50 shipments through Stansted and Heathrow airports from Dubai. 

The shipments are believed to have contained almost 2,000kg of Al Fakher-branded shisha tobacco, worth £236,081 in lost duty. 

However, the 61-year-old smuggler's operation was halted after airport Border Force officers made five seizures of shisha shipments between November 2017 and January 2018. 

Further enquiries by HMRC found that another 42 importations had been made to addresses under Elamin’s control.

A search of his home on January 18, 2018 uncovered £14,600 in cash, as well as shipping labels, a business card for a Dubai-based shisha shop and 48 bank cards in various names. 

The cash was seized by HMRC officers and the investigation revealed how Elamin hijacked the identifies of acquaintances to conceal his criminal activities. 

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He opened several bank accounts under the hijacked identities which were used to transfer money in and out of his real accounts.

Elamin was revealed as the mastermind of this activity by analysis of online banking activity and phone records.

He also set up companies in others peoples' names for use in the fraud.

Elamin was handed a two-year prison term - suspended for two years - at Southwark Crown Court yesterday (May 11).

This sentence came after the fraudster changed his plea during trial by admitting to Excise Duty Fraud and offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

He also pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property.

Terry Braithwaite, assistant director of HMRC's fraud investigation service, said: “Criminals like Elamin create an uneven playing field for legitimate businesses and put a burden on the honest majority.

"He thought he could continue to smuggle in shisha tobacco with no consequences, but he was wrong."

To report tobacco fraud, visit www.gov.uk/report-tax-fraud.