A MONEY launderer from Great Lever has been jailed for his part in a £28 million cigarette smuggling conspiracy.
A gang of seven men was jailed on April 10 and April 11 for importing low-grade and counterfeit tobacco to sell across northern England and Scotland.
They were foiled after leaving fingerprints and DNA on discarded cans and bottles at sites where they had transferred cigarette loads.
Waleed Mohyi, aged 34, of Settle Street, Great Lever, pleaded guilty to money laundering at Manchester Crown Court on March 11 and was jailed for eight months.
The gang’s ringleader Kamaran Khader, aged 31, of Roxburgh Street, Greenock, Scotland, was jailed for six years for evading excise duty after being convicted by a jury.
After arriving in the UK, the goods were transported to industrial storage sites in Blackburn, Oldham, Essex, Ascot and Slough.
Jo Tyler, assistant director of criminal investigation at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said: “These men were making substantial criminal profits at the expense of the taxpayer and, by feeding the black market, were depriving honest retailers of the chance to earn a living.
“But, they were lazy when it came to clearing up after themselves, leaving evidence behind that proved their involvement in this crime."
The group came to the attention of HMRC in 2010 after officers found 390,000 cigarettes inside a transit van and a further 780,000 cigarettes hidden between sheets of insulation at an address in Blackburn.
The gang was also linked to a seizure of 840,000 Jin Ling cigarettes in September 2011 in Oldham and a shipment of nine million Golden Eagle cigarettes which arrived in Southampton in April 2012.
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HMRC officers began to track the gang and observed a meeting between five of them in Essex in May 2012.
They followed them to a local storage unit and discovered a further 1.4 million illegal cigarettes and a plastic carrier bag containing £84,400 in cash.
Ahmed Khezri, aged 24, of Illminster, Rochdale, was found guilty of conspiracy to evade excise duty and jailed for six years, with Sirwan Hassan, aged 36, of Maxwell Grove, Glasgow sentenced to five years after being convicted for the same offence.
Ari Rahimi, aged 23, of Eden Street, Oldham, was found guilty of conspiracy to evade excise duty and jailed for five years, while Khalim Khan, aged 31, of Beacon Street, Walsall, received eight months in prison after admitting the same charge.
Domink Kamusinski, aged 28, of Walpole Street, Slough also pleaded guilty to money laundering and was sentenced to eight months in prison.