A serial tobacco smuggler has been sentenced for repeated attempts to smuggle illicit cigarettes into the UK, for sale on London streets.

Abderrahmane Mehidi, a security guard from Kennington, London, was stopped when he arrived on a flight at London City airport from Iraq, via Geneva, on 22 January 2013. He was carrying two suitcases containing 35,900 cigarettes.

Mehidi skipped bailed on 20 May 2013 but was re-arrested on 20 September 2013 when he tried to re-enter the UK on a coach from Paris at Coquelles. He was charged with three counts of the fraudulent evasion of excise duty.

He had previously been caught on 30 December 2012 at Heathrow airport with 39,980 cigarettes and also on 3 December 2012 at Gatwick airport with 12,300 cigarettes. On both occasions the goods were seized and Mehdi received official warnings.

The revenue loss on the three cigarettes hauls is £19,173. Mehidi was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Andrew Sackey, assistant director of criminal investigation, for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said: “Mehidi is now facing the full consequences of his actions and now has a criminal record. He thought he could continue to break the law despite a number of formal warnings in the past – but he was wrong. We will pursue persistent offenders and bring them before the courts so justice can be served.

“Tobacco smuggling undermines legitimate traders having to compete with the black market economy and has a negative impact on local communities. Anyone with information about tobacco smuggling and fraud are encourage to contact the Custom Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”