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Indian involved in UK's cigarette smuggling scam extradited

world Updated: Jun 30, 2010 17:56 IST

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An Indian citizen involved in one of Britain's biggest cigarette smuggling rackets has been extradited from the US after being on the run since 2007.

Anis Vohora, 41, arrived at the Heathrow airport after being taken off a plane from the United States on Tuesday. He was tracked down by US Marshals in Chicago two months ago and extradited.

Convicted for his involvement in the racket, Vohora now faces years in prison. He was accused of being a key player in an operation which illegally brought 27 million cigarettes and four tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco into the UK.

The scam cost British taxpayers nearly 4 million pounds in lost revenue. He fled the UK to avoid going on trial but in his absence was convicted and given a four-year jail term in October 2008.

An international warrant was issued for his arrest, reports from Leicester said. Vohora and accomplice Mohmed Safi Patel (41), who was sentenced to six years, were arrested along with two other men in August 2006, when officers seized nearly 400,000 cigarettes along with 16kg of hand-rolling tobacco.

Investigators discovered a further 600,000 cigarettes in a Mercedes Sprinter van. The trail led to a house owned by Patel in Leicester, where reams of hand-written accounts detailed the criminal organisation's trade of more than 27 million smuggled cigarettes and four tonnes of tobacco in the previous 10 months.

Gary Lampon, assistant chief investigation officer for HM Revenue and Customs, said: "This is an outstanding example of co-operation between HMRC and the US Marshals. Vohara attempted to steal from public funds, then fled the country when he was found out and brought to account for his part in the crime."

"Tobacco smugglers cheat the country of vital revenue needed to fund public services. Smuggling also has a devastating impact on honest retailers forced to compete with the shadow economy," he added.