Two Leeds men tried to smuggle more than 170 kg of illegal shisha tobacco through Manchester Airport.
Tesfalem Keleta Kibreab, 31, and Tesfubr Tesfamrym, 50, were arrested after flying into the UK from Muscat, Oman, via Dubai.
Kibreab had a suitcase with 90 kg of tobacco while Tesfamrym was found with 82 kg. The total duty evaded was £25,841.
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They were stopped at the airport on November 12 by Border Force officers who referred the case to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for investigation. The pair admitted knowing what was in the suitcases and pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty. Kibreab, 31, of Shay Street, Woodhouse, and Tesfamrym, 50, Beckett Street, Burmantofts, were each sentenced to nine months in jail, suspended for two years, and 250 hours of unpaid community work.
A HMRC spokesperson said: “Kibreab and Tesfamrym knew what they were doing was illegal and both were caught red-handed. Tobacco smuggling steals money from the public purse. The duty evaded in this case is equivalent to a year’s wages for a trainee firefighter. I urge anyone with information about VAT fraud to contact us online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.” Adam Knight, Assistant Director Border Force North, said: “This is just one example of the crucial work that Border Force officers do every day to help keep the UK safe and protect the economy.
“Detections such as this are testament to their dedication and expertise.”