Kilburn shisha bar owner accused of carrying out £500k tax fraud

Asadur Rahman is the director of a shisha bar in Kilburn (Stock photo)

Asadur Rahman is the director of a shisha bar in Kilburn (Stock photo) - Credit: Archant

The owner of a shisha bar in Kilburn avoided more than £500,000 in tax by smuggling the tobacco product disguised as Arabian incense, a court heard today.

Asadur Rahman, who also works as a retail assistant in Heathrow Airport, is claimed to ran a company importing the flavoured tobacco from the Middle East while holding down his job.

The 30-year-old director of Saha Lounge Ltd based in Willesden Lane, and his business partners avoided paying a total of £515,726 on 5,892kg of shisha between October 2011 and May 2012, it is claimed.

Prosecutor Andrew Evans told jurors at the Old Bailey: “The directors of Saha Lounge Ltd found a way of avoiding having to pay the heavy excise duty which shisha tobacco attracts which meant they were able to sell it more cheaply and competitively than if they had paid the duty.

“They avoided the excise duty by disguising the packets of tobacco to make it look like they contained Arabian incense rather than tobacco, simply by pasting over the original labels with false labels.

“It was the perfect disguise because the tobacco carries a strong fragrant smell.

“Although incense attracts import VAT and customs duty that is payable at a much lower rate than tobacco and unlike tobacco does not attract any excise duty at all.

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“In other words they were smuggling it. They were able to avoid just over half a million pounds worth of excise duty.’

Mr Evans told the jury that the rate of excise duty for shisha tobacco is ‘very high’ at £91.81 per kilo.

He said Rahman ran Saha Lounge Ltd with two brothers who are not before the court.

Rahman from Camden denies conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty.

The trial continues.