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Fugitive tobacco fraudster behind bars

Press Release   •   Jun 01, 2018 13:37 BST

Chohan in custody in Canada (RCMP)

One of the UK’s most wanted tax fugitives, who spent more than 11 years on the run and owes more than £53 million, is finally behind bars after he was caught in Canada.

Multi-millionaire Hussain Asad Chohan, formerly of Moseley, Birmingham, fled the country while standing trial for his role in tobacco smuggling fraud in 2006.

Chohan was extradited from Canada by a team of specialist officers from HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) Offender Management and Enforcement Team, with the assistance of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Interpol. He is now behind bars beginning a 12 year prison sentence and must repay more than £53 million.

The 49-year-old fled to Pakistan, Dubai and finally Canada, where he lived under a new identity.

He fled to Lahore, Pakistan, in 2006 when he was on trial for smuggling 2.25 tonnes illegal hand-rolling tobacco, worth £750,000 in evaded duty, into the UK in 2000. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison in his absence.

Chohan was also linked to a £185m VAT fraud involving phony companies set up to fraudulently reclaim VAT by faking the import and export of mobile phones and microchips.

Evidence was presented to a confiscation hearing in December 2006 of Chohan’s involvement in the VAT fraud as well as the tobacco smuggling. The court ruled Chohan’s lifestyle was funded by crime and ordered him to repay £28.6 million within three months.

Chohan did not pay up so will serve an extra seven years in prison. His debt, plus interest totaling more than £24 million, remains and increases by more than £6,000 a day until paid.

Simon York, Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“Chohan thought he could avoid prison by fleeing the country and ran away to set up a new life for himself. But he couldn’t run forever and his criminal past eventually caught up with him.

“Running away from tax crime isn’t an option. We will relentlessly pursue fugitives who, like Chohan, think they can avoid paying for their crime. Our message is clear – nobody is beyond our reach.

“Tracking down fugitives like Chohan demonstrates how far HMRC’s work with law enforcement stretches across the globe. Chohan has been brought back to face justice thanks to the work done here in the UK and abroad particularly by the Canadian Mounties.”

Chohan, who is thought to have used a number of aliases during his time on the run, is also believed to have lived in the Jumeirah area of Dubai, regularly travelling between Pakistan and Dubai from 2011 to 2013, before settling in Ottawa, Canada.

It is thought that Chohan first started to travel to Canada from Dubai in 2010 to lay down roots for his new life.

Chohan was identified living under the false identity, Muhammad Afzal Khan, in Ottawa, and was tracked down by HMRC, working closely with the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.

RCMP arrested Chohan at Toronto airport as he returned to Canada from the United Arab Emirates in September 2016. He was placed on remand at a correctional centre in Lindsay, Ontario, before being flown back to the UK.

He arrived back in the UK today (1 June 2018) accompanied by HMRC officers before being taken to Birmingham Crown Court where his sentence was confirmed.

Chohan is the latest in a string of tax fugitives caught and returned to face UK justice, including Jamie and Brian Colwell, Mariusz Chorazy, Lieb Berger, Antonio De Sousa, Mbarak Gowie, Wayne Hardy, and Geoffrey Johnson.

Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC online at https://www.gov.uk/report-an-unregistered-trader-or-business

Notes for Editors

  1. Hussain Asad Chohan (18/09/1968) of Nepean Ottawa, formerly of Moseley, Birmingham, appeared at Birmingham Crown Court today, 1 June 2018, where his sentence was confirmed.
  2. Chohan was jailed for a total of 12 years; five years for excise evasion and absconding; and an additional seven years for failing to fulfil the requirements of a confiscation order.
  3. Chohan was convicted in his absence at Birmingham Crown Court on 21 April 2006 for excise evasion and absconding. He was sentenced to five years in prison on 1 August 2006.
  4. A court ruled that Chohan benefitted by £28.6 million from his crime and was order to repay the money in his absence on 11 December 2006.
  5. His confiscation order currently stands at £53 million, which has increased due to interest on the original order of £28m. His debt increases by more than £6,000 a day.
  6. Anyone with information about tax fraud should report it to HMRC online or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.