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JAILED: Wolverhampton shop boss avoided paying £100k in cigarette tax dodge

By Richard Guttridge | Whitmore Reans | Crime | Published:

A tax-dodging shop boss who avoided £100,000 in duty on cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol has been jailed for more than two years.

More than 400,000 cigarettes and kilos of tobacco were unearthed

A haul of more than 400,000 cigarettes, kilos of tobacco and almost 200 bottles of spirits connected to Arkani Muradi were uncovered following an investigation, some stashed in hidden containers, behind fake walls and under floorboards at Euro Shop in Newhampton Road West in Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton.

Others were found at a storage unit hired by Muradi under a fake name, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told.

When boss Muradi was rumbled, he shamelessly tried to shift the blame onto his staff, the court heard.

Officers from Wolverhampton trading standards and HMRC raided the shop seven times between August 2014 and November 2015.

Sniffer dogs led officers to a shelf behind the counter, where almost 5,000 cigarettes and more than 1kg of tobacco were being held in place by a magnet.

Despite the find, the compartment continued to be used, with more cigarettes and tobacco found when officers returned.

Further searches revealed Muradi, aged 36, had shoved cigarettes and tobacco almost anywhere he could find, with boxes found in a bath and oven in the upstairs flat.

Officers also found a false wall, where yet more goods were concealed.

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As well as the tax-dodging operation, Euro Shop, which Muradi took control of in 2008, allowed underage children to buy vodka and cigarettes, also selling alcohol out of licensing hours and cigarettes without the health warning.

Investigators were led to a self-storage unit in Portway Road, Wednesbury, where a staggering 240,000 cigarettes, on which no tax had been paid, were found stacked in cardboard boxes labelled as Polish crisps.

When questioned, father-of-three Muradi, of Highfield Road, Great Barr, claimed the dodgy cigarettes, tobacco and booze had nothing to do with him and blamed staff or people living in the flat above the shop, the court was told.

In total, the goods, some which were counterfeit, did the taxman out of £99,302 in duty and potentially more in VAT.

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Judge Barry Berlin jailed him for two years and two months on Wednesday after Muradi admitted 16 charges, including participating in a fraudulent business, evading duty, unauthorised use of a trade mark and engaging in unfair commercial practice.

The judge said: "A feature of this case is you seem to blame all your staff for your own activities.

"This was your business. You knew precisely what you were doing, you put cigarettes in the wall and floorboards and anywhere else you could.

"You were persistently breaching the law to undercut other shopkeepers and make a handsome profit."

Mr Lee Egan, defending, said: "He started doing something in conjunction with his legitimate business and it has gone on and on."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
@RichG_star

Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton

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