A United Kingdom tribunal has held that a Nigerian be fined the sum of £26,835 (over N15 million) after being charged in relation to 61,800 cigarettes found in his bag without appropriate disclosure to relevant revenue authorities. The cigarettes were seized at Heathrow Airport, London, in February 2020.
Details of the judgement are contained in an appeal filed by the Nigerian, Oladipupo Fagbewesa, against the civil evasion penalty issued on 21 June 2021.
In court documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES, the tribunal judge, Abigail Mcgregor, held that Mr Fagbewesa owned the cigarettes that were seized from his bags and subsequently upheld the penalty.
According to the court document dated 12 April, the Notice of Appeal was submitted to the tribunal just over a month late and was received on 23 September 2021. An explanation for the lateness was given in the Notice of Appeal, the document said.
The reasons for the lateness include, among others, the fact that the conclusion letter, dated 14 July 2021, was not received by Mr Fagbewesa until 14 August 2021 because he had been away in Nigeria caring for his sick mother for a 3-week period from 25 July 2021. Similarly, the document said Mr Fagbewesa works at night and therefore has limited time in the day to seek legal advice; he found affordable legal advice on 27 August 2021; English is not his first language and he had trouble understanding the procedure.
Based on the reasons given and the absence of objection from the HM Revenue and Customs, a non-ministerial department of the UK Government responsible for the collection of taxes, the court decided to admit the appeal late.
But after hearing arguments from the parties, the tribunal ruled that the seized cigarettes belonged to Mr Fagbewesa and upheld the £26,835 penalty against him.