Oladipupo Fagbewesa, a Nigerian man, has been ordered by a UK tribunal to pay approximately £26,835 in relation to 61,800 cigarettes detected in his luggage upon returning from Lagos to Heathrow Airport on February 14, 2020.
The HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) charged Fagbewesa on May 26, 2021, to determine if he was the owner of the seized cigarettes. Fagbewesa’s lawyer argued that the cigarettes were not his, and that he had no knowledge of them being in his luggage, but the tribunal judge ruled that Fagbewesa owned the cigarettes and upheld the penalty.
The judge also stated that any party dissatisfied with this decision has a right to apply for permission to appeal against it pursuant to Rule 39 of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Tax Chamber) Rules 2009.
During the hearing, Fagbewesa’s counsel claimed that the luggage was out of Fagbewesa’s control from the time it was checked in at Lagos airport until it was returned to him, and that the cigarettes were not present when he checked in at Lagos International Airport.
However, HMRC attorney Joshua Carey stated that the story of not owning the cigarettes was “made up in order to avoid the penalty.” The tribunal judge found Fagbewesa’s oral evidence to be inconsistent and evasive when being asked questions that would lead to him having to give inconsistent answers.
The tribunal held that Fagbewesa owned the cigarettes taken from his baggage, and that a reduction of 5% for the amount of cooperation given, being only sending back the signed letter, was a reasonable reduction.
Therefore, the penalty stands. The judge added that any party dissatisfied with this decision has a right to apply for permission to appeal against it pursuant to Rule 39 of the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Tax Chamber) Rules 2009, but the application must be received by the tribunal not later than 56 days after the decision is sent to that party.