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ON THE RUN: Tobacco smuggler a fugitive after being sentenced to jail in his absence

FUGITIVE: Kishor Shah (left) is wanted, while Hitesh Patel (right) has been jailed

A London shop owner, who evaded £250,000 in tax by smuggling tobacco and cigarettes from India is on the run after being jailed in his absence to four-and-a-half years in prison.

Kishor Shah, 63, of Elm Road, Wembley, hid some of his stash under a vegetable stall at the front of his shop, Paan Parlour on Ealing Road, Wembley.

Together with Hitesh Patel, 41, a company director from Hanworth Road, Hounslow, they imported shipping containers loaded with cigarettes and tobacco from Mumbai.

Shah, a previously convicted smuggler, and Patel were rumbled when a sniffer dog found tobacco in lock-ups in Alperton Lane, Greenford on 19 July 2016.

They were arrested by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers after driving on to the scene in a white Ford Transit van.

The lock-up was searched and contained 44,500 cigarettes and 746kg of chewing tobacco.

Shah led officers to his shop where 1,260 smuggled cigarettes were found.

SEIZED: Tobacco illegally imported from Mubai by the crooks

Border Force had also seized two consignments coming through Felixstowe in June 2016, containing 200kg of snuff tobacco, 160kg of raw tobacco and 180kg of chewing tobacco.

Patel had paperwork relating to the shipments at his business, Narayan Foods Ltd in Johnson Street, Southall, west London.

A further 1.7 tonnes of chewing tobacco was found at another lock-up on the North Circular Road, Stonebridge Park on 22 July, 2016.

Shah failed to turn up for his trial at Blackfriars Crown Court which began on July 23 this year, claiming he had fallen ill on a trip to India, but was tried in his absence.

Patel, who did appear in court, claimed he was only involved in importing food and had no idea Shah was bringing in tobacco.

But, prosecuting, James Thacker, said he was aware Shah was already being prosecuted for an earlier similar offence.

He said: "You saw he was being prosecuted and you saw the word fraud. Why not run in the opposite direction from him?"

SMUGGLED: The pair take boxes of tobacco into a lock up

Patel said: "Yes I did ask him and he just said everything is OK."

He insisted he thought the deal they entered into only concerned food.

However, Patel was found guilty of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of duty and jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Shah was convicted and sentenced in his absence to four years in jail for smuggling tobacco.

He received a further six months for offending while serving a suspended sentence for a similar offence in 2016.

Simon Kiefer, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Criminals like Shah create an uneven playing field for legitimate businesses and put a burden on the honest majority. He thought his crime would go undetected but he was wrong.

“He evaded tax. Now he’s trying to evade justice and we need the help of the public to track him down so that he can begin his prison sentence."

A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Both men were also disqualified from being company directors for five years.

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