Wakas Rauf, of Rachels Way, Chesham, imported cigarettes worth £576,821 in unpaid duty, an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed.
Border Force officers discovered 1,484,000 cigarettes on the back of a lorry, concealed under a cover load of noodles, at Felixstowe in February 2012. Six months later another delivery of 982,800 cigarettes was found hidden under a cover load of pocket tissues.
The 38-year-old controlled three businesses; Camerons Executives Limited, Roseyblue Limited and Vision Distributors Limited; which bought and sold household electrical goods. Between May 2015 and September 2016, these companies failed to declare or pay £898,452 in VAT, which they had charged their customers.
Rauf also ran a company called Camerons Executives Kamronz Ltd and between January 2012 and May 2013, he submitted fraudulent VAT returns to claim repayments of £17,529 which he was not entitled to. A further £7,256 was withheld by HMRC.
He was charged with two counts of excise fraud and four counts of VAT fraud but fled to Pakistan two days before a court hearing and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He returned to the UK eight months later and was intercepted at the airport by HMRC officers.
Richard Wilkinson, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“This was a deliberate attempt to steal more than £1.5 million of taxpayers’ money and deprive our public services of vital funding. Rauf’s actions undermined legitimate and hardworking traders and then he thought he could evade justice by fleeing the country.
“We will continue to work closely with partner authorities and relentlessly pursue tax criminals like Rauf. We encourage anyone with information about VAT fraud or illegal tobacco and alcohol to report it online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Before a court hearing in March 2019, he fled to Pakistan but returned to the UK on 29 November 2019. On his arrival at London Heathrow airport, he was stopped and arrested by HMRC officers.
Rauf admitted VAT and excise fraud at Southwark Crown Court on 14 February 2020 and 10 July 2020.
On 6 November 2020, he was sentenced to six years in prison at Southwark Crown Court.