Two men have been jailed after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers found that a warehouse in Sandbach was used as a distribution hub by international cigarette smugglers in an £840,000 tax fraud.
HMRC officers observed a suspicious delivery at the Millbuck Way site when a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) arrived towing a curtain-sided trailer and reversed up to the unit at the Springvale Industrial Estate in July 2016.
The officers caught Hadayatullah Meahrabi, 20, from Croydon, and Willem Peele, 56, from Holland, in the middle of unloading more than three million smuggled illegal cigarettes from the HGV. Further illegal cigarettes were found hidden behind boxes of ice-cream cones and biscuits in the unit.
After their arrest at the rented warehouse, the two Dutch nationals were remanded into custody and after pleading guilty to tax fraud were jailed for a total of five years on February 23 at Chester Crown Court.
Meahrabi pleaded guilty on 23 August 2016 to the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty contrary to the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 1979, and was sentenced to two years jail. He had a holdall containing £4,000 in cash at the unit, which was seized by HMRC officers under Proceeds of Crime power.
Peele pleaded guilty on 16 January 2017 to the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty contrary to the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 1979 and was sentenced to three years jail.