Jailed Sheffield shopkeeper ordered to repay £500k he made from selling illegal cigarettes or face more time behind bars
A jailed shopkeeper from Sheffield, who imported, stored and sold thousands of illegal cigarettes, has been ordered to repay more than £490,000 he made from his crimes, or spend more time in jail.
Karim Heabah, the owner of Baghdad Mini Market in Page Hall, was jailed for three years in December 2017 for excise fraud offences, following an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
At a confiscation hearing held at Sheffield Crown Court today, Judge Rachael Harrison ruled Heabah, 29, of Jenkin Road, Wincobank had benefited from a criminal lifestyle.
She told Heabah he must repay £494,296 within three months, or spend a further four-and-a-half years behind bars and still owe the money.
Diccon Wood, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Selling illegal cigarettes creates an uneven playing field for legitimate businesses and is theft from the taxpayer. This is money which should be used to fund our vital public services and now Heabah must pay it back.
“The majority of tobacco retailers are law abiding, but we will continue pursue those who smuggle, store and profit from illegal tobacco. Our actions don’t stop once someone is convicted and we will always look to reclaim the stolen money.
“We encourage anyone with information about tobacco fraud to report it online, or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
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HMRC and Trading Standards made a number of tobacco seizures from Heabah’s shop on Page Hall Road between 2011 and 2016.
The largest haul consisted of more than 29,900 illegal cigarettes and 10.5 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco.
A number of parcels containing illicit tobacco goods, addressed to Heabah, were also seized by HMRC at delivery depots in Sheffield and Coventry in 2015.
HMRC officers found another batch of illicit tobacco goods at his shop just days before he was sent to prison.
Heabah was finally jailed for excise fraud at Sheffield Crown Court on December 15, 2017.
Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC online at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/customs-excise-and-vat-fraud-reporting