Now here's a rather interesting tale of deceit and skulduggery, concerning garlic, that the good people of HMRC unearthed.
A little know fact (little known to me at any rate) is that fresh ginger does not attract duty, but fresh garlic does.
Therefore if you are a dishonest importer of fresh ginger and garlic you will attempt to persuade HMRC that you are importing only ginger, rather than garlic. Murugasan Natarajan attempted just such a deception, but HMRC could smell something was not quite right and uncovered over 7,000 tonnes of undeclared garlic (on which duty of £9K was owed).
Murugasan Natarajan has now done a runner!
Here is the full HMRC press release below:
"A garlic smuggler has been jailed for six years for evading around £2 million in customs duty after importing Chinese garlic.
The smuggler, who is now on the run, claimed he was importing ginger but HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators found that the containers being used were transported at the wrong temperature.
HMRC had launched an investigation into Murugasan Natarajan, 57, who owned the London based Perfect Imports & Exports Ltd company, and with his assitant Lakshmi Suresh, 28, after UK Border Agency officers found more than 7,000 tons of garlic in addition to the load disclosed for duty purposes – equalling almost £9,000 of unpaid duty. HMRC later checked shipping records and discovered that imports of garlic had stopped but importations of fresh ginger - which are free of duty - had increased five-fold. Further checks showed that the temperature in the containers used were too cold for ginger, but perfect for garlic.
Natarajan was arrested in April 2011, and was tried in his absence after failing to surrender to bail.
Peter Millroy, Assistant Director of HMRC Criminal Investigation, said:
“The penalty imposed on Natarajan is the longest sentence imposed in the UK in recent years for the evasion of customs duty. Over 100 containers were identified where there were strong grounds to believe that the contents had either been understated or wrongly described. These rules are designed to protect legitimate businesses from unfair competition.”
During a search of Natarajan’s property almost £150,000 in cash was seized under the proceeds of crime act. In sentencing Natarajan, His Honour Judge Worsley QC said he had played a leading role from the outset, describing the fraud as being “sophisticated, persistent and prolonged.”
Anyone with any information of the whereabouts of Natarajan should contact HMRC’s Customs, Excise and VAT fraud hotline on 0800 595 000, by email or post.
Notes to Editors
1. Murugasan Natarajan of 44 West Drayton Park Avenue, West Drayton, failed to surrender to bail and was tried in his absence at the Old Bailey. On 7 December 2012, the jury returned a verdict of guilty and sentenced him to 6 years imprisonment.
2. On 22nd November 2012, Lakshmi Suresh of 4 Stormount Drive, Hayes, pleaded guilty to her role in the fraud and was sentenced to a term of 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months. She was also ordered to pay £10,000 compensation to HMRC."
Tax does have to be taxing.
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