A MAN has been jailed for eight months for attempting to smuggle four suitcases of contraband cigarettes from Lagos in Nigeria through Leeds Bradford Airport.

Olaniyi Samuyiwa, 53, said he was “a heavy smoker” when he was caught with 74,000 cigarettes in a bid to evade £22,882 in excise duty, Bradford Crown Court heard.

Samuyiwa, of Westbourne House, Wheatlands, Hounslow, London, was stopped by United Kingdom Border Force officials with his four large suitcases after flying solo via Amsterdam on July 17 last year.

He told HM Revenue and Customs he was involved in the sport of boxing and he was a heavy smoker, claiming the cigarettes were for his own use.

He pleaded guilty to fraudulent evasion of excise duty at Bradford Magistrates Court on March 12 and the case was sent to the crown court.

Prosecutor Emma Downing said on Tuesday that the defendant was stopped by officials after he had proceeded through the airport’s ‘Green Channel,’ clearly identified to be used only for passengers flying from a non-European country with nothing to declare.

When his luggage was searched, Samuyiwa was found to be carrying 74,000 Benson and Hedges Gold king-size filter cigarettes wrapped in black packaging.

The cigarettes were identified as having originated in Nigeria because the packaging contained health warnings issued by the Nigerian Ministry of Health, Miss Downing said.

They were genuine and intended for retail sale only in the Nigerian domestic market.

The court heard that the retail value of the cigarettes in this country would be £41,255.

Miss Downing said that after the cigarette stash was seized, Samuyiwa claimed he was going to smoke them all himself.

He said he smoked up to 60 cigarettes a day and that he travelled frequently to Nigeria to visit his elderly family. He then replied ‘no comment’ to all further questions.

After the defendant had asserted that he was a heavy smoker, officials searched his home and his Ford Galaxy car that was parked at Leeds Bradford Airport and found no evidence that he smoked. They found not a single cigarette nor any smoking paraphernalia, the court was told.

Miss Downing said that when Samuyiwa himself was searched at the airport he was not in possession of any cigarettes or a lighter.

The court made an order for the forfeiture of all the cigarettes.

After the case, an HMRC spokesperson said: “Samuyiwa knew what he was doing was illegal and he was caught red-handed.

“He claimed the cigarettes were for his own use, but it would have taken him more than ten years to get through them if he was a 20-a-day smoker.

“Tobacco smuggling takes money away from the public purse, money which could be funding vital UK services.

“I urge anyone with information about tobacco smuggling or any kind of tax fraud to contact HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”