UK: Garlic smuggler on the run after tax conviction

By Michelle Russell | 11 December 2012

Natarajan was found with around 7,000kg of garlic from China

Natarajan was found with around 7,000kg of garlic from China

A garlic smuggler who resided in the UK and was sentenced to six years in prison for evading tax has gone on the run.

Murugasan Natarajan, 57, who owned the London-based Perfect Imports & Exports company, was found with around 7,000kg of garlic from China, having evaded GBP2m (US$3.2m) in customs duty. According to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) he was arrested in April last year and tried in his absence after failing to surrender to bail.

Natarajan claimed he was importing ginger but HMRC investigators found the containers used were transported at the wrong temperature. A search of the smuggler's property found around GBP150,000 in cash, which was seized under the proceeds of crime act.

In sentencing Natarajan, His Honour Judge Worsley QC said he had played a leading role from the outset, describing the fraud as being "sophisticated, persistent and prolonged".

A spokesperson for HMRC told just-food they believe Natarajan has "absconded somewhere in India" and has yet to be found. "There is a team out there and they're still looking for him," she said.

Peter Millroy, assistant director of HMRC Criminal Investigation, said: "The penalty imposed on Natarajan is the longest sentence in the UK in recent years for the evasion of customs duty. Over 100 containers were identified where there were strong grounds to believe that the contents had either been understated or wrongly described. These rules are designed to protect legitimate businesses from unfair competition."

HRMC is calling for anyone with any information of the whereabouts of Natarajan to contact its office.

Sectors: Commodities & ingredients, Fresh produce

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UK: Garlic smuggler on the run after tax conviction

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