A qualified barrister from Hounslow, who plotted to smuggle more than a tonne of shisha tobacco into the UK, has been spared an immediate jail term.
Mohammed Shaikh, of Summerhouse Avenue, Heston, was caught after the black market tobacco was found hidden in a consignment of charcoal sacks in a lorry at the Port of Felixstowe in December 2013.
The shisha was headed for a private address in Rochford, Essex, where the 27-year-old was arrested by officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and the tobacco - on which an estimated £106,000 in duty and taxes had been evaded - was seized.
A computer discovered during a search of Shaikh's home address was found to have been used to design the sacks in which the tobacco was concealed, HMRC said.
Shaikh admitted tobacco smuggling offences under the Customs and Excises Management Act 1979.
He was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on Wednesday (May 20) to 15-months in prison, suspended for two years, meaning he faces being locked up should he commit any further offences in the next two years. He was also ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.
Although Shaikh is qualified as a barrister he was not practising at the time of his arrest. He was instead working at a jewellers in Hatton Gardens, as a director of Shaikh & Sons Limited.
Paul Barton, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC, said: "Being a trained barrister, Shaikh knew full well that he was breaking the law, but thought he could make easy money, attempting to hide the smuggled tobacco by claiming to be importing charcoal.
"He was wrong. Stealing money that should be paying for public services is a serious offence and we take robust action to detect and bring those responsible before the courts.
"We encourage anyone with information on tobacco smuggling to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000."