Three Londoners caught with more than one million illicit cigarettes, worth £310,000 in lost duty to the UK public purse, have been sentenced.
Zana Osman, 37, from North Finchley, Piotr Zwolinski, 45, of Wembley, and Halkwat Walli, 34, originally from Iraq, were caught in Bedford with 1.15 million illicit cigarettes in their vehicle by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators.
Days after being bailed in March 2017, Osman was found with £18,665 in laundered cash hidden under the driver’s seat of his BMW car. He was jailed for three years at Luton Crown Court on Friday 19 January, 2018.
Osman denied smuggling cigarettes and money laundering, but was found guilty by a jury at Luton Crown Court on 27 November 2017. Zwolinski and Walli admitted smuggling cigarettes. Zwolinski was sentenced to 14 months in jail, suspended for two years, given a home curfew and ordered to do 240 hours of unpaid work. Walli, who had been held in custody since his arrest in March 2017 as he faced deportation action by the Home Office, was sentenced to nine months in jail on 5 September 2017 at Luton Crown Court. Walli is appealing against deportation.
Her Honour Judge Barbara Mensah made an order for the £18,665 cash to be donated to an offenders’ charity.
She said: “Osman’s account was dishonest and incredible and he deprived society of money.”
Steve Bowling, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “These criminals were aiming to undercut legitimate retailers with this large quantity of smuggled cigarettes and tobacco. HMRC continues to target the supply of illicit tobacco, which costs the UK around £2.5 billion a year – money that could be used to fund vital public services.
“We encourage anyone with information regarding the smuggling, storage or sale of illegal tobacco to contact our fraud hotline on 0800 788887.”