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South Asian garlic smuggler jailed for two years

A South Asian businessman from West London is on the run after being sentenced to six years in jail for smuggling garlic from China to the UK.

Murugasan Natarajan 57, and his assistant Lakshmi Suresh, 28, were convicted earlier this month of evading £2m in import taxes.

The duo had told customs that thousands of kilos of garlic were, in fact, ginger which is untaxed.

The penalty was the longest sentence in the UK handed down in recent years for evasion of customs duty, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said.

Natarajan, owner of Southall-based Perfect Imports and Exports, jumped bail after his arrest in 2011 and was tried and convicted in absentia.  

The HMRC investigation was launched after the UK Border Agency discovered more than 7 tons of garlic.  

About £150,000 in cash was seized by customs officers at Natarajan’s property in West Drayton.

To protect EU garlic growers, imports from outside the EU are taxed at various rates: 9.6% of the value of fresh or chilled garlic, plus an extra levy of 120 euros per 100 kg imported; 14.4% on frozen garlic; 9.6% on preserved garlic; and 12.8% on dried garlic.

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