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By Steve Carpenter Friday 04 January 2013 Updated: 04/01 14:27
A MAN from Cheylesmore who fronted a criminal operation to smuggle almost nine million illegal cigarettes into the UK has been jailed.
Miqdad Salih, 48, was the criminal mastermind heading an operation to distribute millions of cigarettes from Poland, Latvia and Romania across the Midlands.
He led the onward distribution of 6.5 million and also sold smuggled cigarettes from a shop he owned in King William Street, Hillfields.
The Marlboro, Superkings, Regal, Sovereign, L&M’s and Jin Ling cigarettes, which were either counterfeit or had no legitimate UK market, were seized by HMRC criminal investigators in 2009 during raids at nine locations across the Midlands, Kent and Lincolnshire.
Mr Salih, who had made profits of £75,000, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Evade Excise Duty under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 and money laundering offences.
He was was sentenced to five years and four months in prison at Birmingham Crown Court in December.
Two other men, Goran Ahmed and Khalid Hareem, also from Coventry, were told to serve two years and four months in prison for their part in distributing the illegal goods.
"These men set out to make vast amounts of money at the expense of legitimate retailers by ripping-off unsuspecting smokers and the taxpayer,” Said John Pointing, assistant director of
criminal investigation for HMRC.
"They were out to line their own pockets in the belief they wouldn’t get caught. However, they are now paying the price for their criminal activity with the loss of their freedom.
"This will serve as a firm warning to others involved in tobacco smuggling - you will be caught."
Four other co-conspirators, two from Stevenage, one from Birmingham and the other from Northampton, were also handed two-year prison sentences.
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