Tees

Middlesbrough illegal cigarette stash couple sentenced

Illegal cigarettes Image copyright HM Revenue and Customs
Image caption The cigarettes and tobacco were worth £61,527 in unpaid duty

A Middlesbrough couple caught with almost 140,000 illegal cigarettes have been handed suspended jail terms.

Ekhlas Hassan, 29, and Karwan Latif Abu-Baker, 30, were caught when HM Revenue and Customs officers raided a storage unit and then searched their Ayresome Park Road home.

At an earlier hearing at Teesside Crown Court the pair admitted excise fraud.

The judge has now sentenced both of them to 16-month jail terms, suspended for two years.

The court was told 99,400 cigarettes, 107 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, and 30 kilos of shisha tobacco were found at the storage unit in Stockton, which was rented by Hassan.

CCTV footage from the storage unit site revealed Abu-Baker was also involved in the conspiracy.

A subsequent search of their home uncovered a further 38,797 cigarettes and nine kilos of hand-rolling tobacco.

The goods, worth £61,527 in unpaid duty, were seized by HMRC.

An HMRC spokesperson said: "Hussan and Abu-Baker thought their crimes would go unnoticed but they were wrong.

"We will not tolerate any involvement in the supply, transport, storage or sale of illegal tobacco."

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