How not to smuggle tobacco into the country: Bungling students caught after taking pictures of themselves packing it into suitcases

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  • Three men from Leicester detained at Heathrow after Police received tip-off
  • Customs officers found photos on phones of them posing with contraband
  • Each had five suitcases with total of 291kg of tobacco
  • Pleaded guilty to tobacco smuggling and conspiracy offences

By William Cook

PUBLISHED: 11:18 EST, 12 November 2012 | UPDATED: 12:24 EST, 12 November 2012

Three students were caught smuggling nearly £60,000 worth of shisha tobacco - after taking photos of themselves packing it into suitcases

The gang's teenage leader and his two accomplices have been sentenced for their role in a 'get rich quick' plot to smuggle the 300kg of shisha tobacco from Dubai to the UK.

The trio were detained on arrival at Heathrow airport, after officials received a tip-off.

Evidence: Three men were arrested after posing for photos with the tobacco they were trying to smuggle into the UK

Three men were arrested after posing for photos with the tobacco they were trying to smuggle into the UK

Asking for trouble: Muhibur Rahman (pictured) poses with the tobacco next to one of the trio's fifteen suitcases

Asking for trouble: Muhibur Rahman (pictured) poses with the tobacco next to one of the trio's fifteen suitcases

When customs officers confiscated the students' mobile phones they discovered an image of one of the smugglers - Muhibur Rahman - posing in a Dubai hotel room with the tobacco.

Sahil Sheikh, 19, an undergraduate at Leicester's De Montfort University, masterminded the criminal operation and recruited two accomplices to help him transport the tobacco.

He covered the costs of travel, hotels and the tobacco itself and organised its sale in the UK.

When arrested, Sheikh, fellow De Montfort student Muhibur Rahman, and Dawood Walilay, from Rugby, Warwickshire, each had five suitcases containing a total of £291kg of tobacco.

Isleworth Crown Court, West London, heard all three were of previous good character.

Mastermind: Sahil Sheikh, 19, led, organised and funded the criminal operation

Mastermind: Sahil Sheikh, 19, led, organised and funded 'what he thought was a sophisticated plot'

Accomplice: Sheikh (left) recruited Dawood Walilay (right) and Muhibur Rahman to help transport the shisha

Sheikh was sentenced to 28 weeks in jail, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.

Rahman, 21, was sentenced to 120 hours of unpaid work, and Walilay, 20, to 150 hours.

All three had pleaded guilty to tobacco smuggling and conspiracy offences under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 at an earlier hearing.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which carried out the investigation said the revenue due on the shisha tobacco - smoked using a water pipe - was about £58,300.

John Cooper, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said: 'Sheikh led and organised what he thought was a sophisticated plot, along with his gang members, to get rich quick by lining his own pockets through smuggling and selling illicit tobacco to the Leicestershire community.

'In effect, he stole taxpayers' cash by not paying duty on the goods.'

No record: Isleworth Crown Court heard the trio, including Dawood Walilay (pictured), were of previous good character

Isleworth Crown Court heard the trio, including Dawood Walilay (pictured), were of previous good character

Tip off: The gang were detained on arrival at Heathrow airport, where Customs officers found the photos

Tip off: The gang were detained on arrival at Heathrow airport, where Customs officers found the photos

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