he fled to Pakistan in an attempt to evade punishment.
Wakas Rauf, aged 38, of Chesham, Buckinghamshire, was jailed for six years after he illegally imported more than two million cigarettes into the UK. The businessman also stole hundreds of thousands of pounds in VAT and then fled the country to evade punishment.
Southwark Crown Court heard that an investigation carried out by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed he imported cigarettes worth £576,821 in unpaid duty.
In February 2012, Border Force officers found 1,484,000 cigarettes in the back of a lorry, concealed under a cover load of noodles at Felixstowe, Suffolk.
Six months later, officers discovered another delivery of 982,800 cigarettes under a cover load of pocket tissues.
Rauf controlled three businesses which carried out the VAT fraud. They were Camerons Executives Limited, Roseyblue Limited and Vision Distributors Limited.
They operated by buying and selling household electrical goods.
Between May 2015 and September 2016, these three companies failed to declare or pay £898,452 in VAT, which they had charged their customers.
Rauf also ran a fourth company called Camerons Executives Kamronz Ltd which was involved.
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.
The businessman was charged with two counts of excise fraud and four counts of VAT fraud.
Rauf had a court hearing scheduled for March 22, 2019, however, two days before he was set to appear at court, he fled to Pakistan in an attempt to evade punishment.
A warrant was subsequently issued for his arrest.
Rauf returned to the UK eight months later on November 29, 2019. HMRC officers intercepted him at Heathrow Airport and subsequently arrested him.
Rauf admitted VAT and excise fraud at two hearings at Southwark Crown Court on February 14 and July 10, 2020.
Richard Wilkinson, assistant director at the 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.”
Anyone with information about VAT fraud or illegal tobacco and alcohol can report it online or call the HMRC Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.
On November 6, 2020, Rauf was sentenced to six years in prison.