A FAILED businessman caught with more than 200,000 contraband cigarettes at a storage unit in Bradford and being transported in his Mercedes has been spared an immediate prison sentence.

The judge today decided that Salam Shaly had been to some degree hoodwinked into warehousing the cigarettes and illegal tobacco that would have evaded more than £71,000 of revenue.

Shaly, 37, of Regency Court, Girlington, Bradford, pleaded guilty to two offences of fraudulent evasion of duty in 2019.

Prosecutor Tayo Dasalu told Bradford Crown Court that the contraband cigarettes and tobacco would have lost HMRC a total of £71,421 in duty.

The court heard that officers from the Revenue found 116,960 illegal cigarettes and 22 kilos of rolling tobacco at Stadium Self Storage, Unit 195, in Sticker Lane, Laisterdyke, in April, 2019.

Coffee granules had been sprinkled behind the doors to put off any detection dogs brought to the premises.

Miss Dasalu said that £40,631 worth of excise duty would have been lost on the haul.

On June 3, 2019, the police stopped a Mercedes that Shaly was driving and seized a further 100,000 contraband cigarettes.

A much smaller number were recovered in a raid on International Foods in Lowtown, Pudsey, three months later.

The court heard in mitigation that Shaly was an honest and hardworking businessman until he had to sell up, losing a lot of money.

He had a family to support and he was to a degree “hoodwinked” into becoming involved with the contraband.

Recorder Jeremy Barnett said he had read impressive references about Shaly.

He now worked in an off-licence and his employer had come to court to support him.

Shaly was an otherwise decent and hardworking man who fell on hard times.

He was helped by a friend but the price he had to pay was lending him space at the storage unit for the illegal tobacco.

He knew it was wrong but he was a man of previous good character who did not need to go directly to prison.

Recorder Barnett said the Revenue lost a huge amount of money from frauds such as this.

“There’s a great deal of money to be made in these illegal activities so deterrent sentences must be passed,” he stated.

But Shaly was only on the fringes of what was probably a much large operation.

He was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with 60 hours of unpaid work.