East Ham barbershop owner slapped with £600,000 tax bill for selling illegal tobacco

More than 51 bills and penalties totalling more than �11.5m were issued nationwide. Picture: Martin

More than 51 bills and penalties totalling more than �11.5m were issued nationwide. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

An East Ham barbershop caught selling illegal tobacco has been billed more than £600,000 by the taxman.

The owner of the barbers, which HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) say they cannot name for “statutory reasons”, made around £1,000 from the goods, according to tax collectors.

The £605,057 bill is one of 51 penalties issued as part of a nationwide crackdown on black market tobacco products.

The agency demanded more than £11.5 million be paid by people and businesses found to be selling and storing the goods multiple times.

In another case, investigators revealed a convenience store in Plaistow was selling around 320 packets of cigarettes and 12 pouches of hand-rolling tobacco each day while not paying duty on them.

Thousands of illegal cigarette packets were discovered in specially-built hidden compartments in the shop, leading to multiple seizures between 2013 and 2015.

The shop stopped trading after receiving a bill for £82,998 in unpaid duty.

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“Honest, hardworking shopkeepers are suffering from being undercut by tax cheats,” said Eden Noblett, assistant director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service.

“That simply isn’t fair and we are determined to level the playing field.

“Everyone should pay what they owe, when they owe it. If we have to come and get it from you, expect to pay far more in penalties and interest. No business should prosper by ignoring the rules.

“We constantly look to change and refine how we tackle tax cheats. As they change and develop, so will we.

“We work closely with other law enforcement agencies to crack down on the illicit tobacco market which starves the UK of money which should be used to fund our vital public services.”

The agency says shopkeepers started to keep fewer cigarettes at the premises to try to avoid prosecution, or ensure any sentence was as low as possible if caught and convicted.

Investigators look at the frequency and volume of seizures made, as well as evidence gathered from cash books, till receipts, bank accounts and other sources to tot up the amount of tax owed.

Anyone with information on illegal tobacco sales can contact the HMRC Fraud Hotline online or phone on 0800 788 887.