A bungling taxi driver who was caught trying to smuggle £50,000 worth of tobacco into Britain when his cab went up in SMOKE has been slapped with a community order.
Hawraz Mohammed Salih, 39, was caught on the M5 motorway when his blue Vauxhall Astra suffered an engine fire.
Firefighters who tackled the blaze became suspicious and called HM Revenue and Customs who attended the scene and discovered 250 kilos of tobacco in the car.
They discovered the tobacco, which Salih had stuffed into black bin bags, had a street value of £50,000.
He was caught when his car caught fire on the M5 near Halesowen, West Mids., last April.
When questioned by HMRC officers he claimed he had been flagged down near his home in Wolverhampton, West Mids., and offered £100 to take the tobacco to a house in Gloucestershire.
He claimed he was unaware the excise duty on the tobacco had not been paid.
But he later changed his story and admitted evading tobacco duty when he appeared at Worcester Crown Court on Monday.
He was given a 12-month community order, including six months supervision and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
After the hearing Colin Booker, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC, said: “Salih’s day started badly with a vehicle fire, and became considerably worse when his stash of illegally smuggled tobacco was discovered.
“That tobacco would most likely have ended up on the streets, creating an unregulated supply and undercutting honest retailers.
“Anyone tempted to get involved in criminality should be wary – more fraudsters, smugglers and benefit cheats are being prosecuted than ever before.
“We will not cease in our efforts to investigate tobacco duty evasion.”