Leicester De Montfort students' shisha tobacco smuggling plot fails
Three men have been sentenced for their role in a "get rich quick" plot to smuggle nearly 300kg of shisha tobacco through Heathrow airport.
Two men from Leicester, who had packed the contraband into cases, were arrested with a third man when they arrived from Dubai on January 15.
They were detained after police received a tip-off.
Sahil Sheikh (19), an undergraduate at De Montfort University, led the criminal operation and recruited couriers to carry out the smuggling.
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He paid for the travel, hotels and purchase of the tobacco in Dubai and organised its sale in the UK.
When arrested, Sheikh, of Grasmere Street, close to Leicester Royal Infirmary, and his couriers, fellow De Montfort student Muhibur Rahman, also of Grasmere Street, and Dawood Walilay, of Rugby, were trying to smuggle in 291kg of shisha tobacco.
Each had five suitcases containing about 100kg of the tobacco.
Isleworth Crown Court, West London, heard all three were of previous good character.
Sheikh was sentenced to 28 weeks in jail, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.
Rahman (21) was sentenced to 120 hours of unpaid work, and Walilay (20), of Crick Road, Rugby, to 150 hours.
All three had pleaded guilty to tobacco smuggling and conspiracy offences under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 at an earlier hearing.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which carried out the investigation said the revenue due on the shisha tobacco – smoked using a water pipe – was about £58,300.
After sentencing, John Cooper, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said: "Sheikh led and organised what he thought was a sophisticated plot, along with his gang members, to get rich quick by lining his own pockets through smuggling and selling illicit tobacco to the Leicestershire community.
"In effect, he stole taxpayers' cash by not paying duty on the goods."
Mr Cooper urged anyone with information about illicit tobacco sales or smuggling to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 595000. Calls can be made anonymously.