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English garlic smugglers get six years in smelly bust

Garlic smugglers disguised the pungent Chinese bulbs as ginger to avoid paying UK import taxes–and received six years in jail for their troubles
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A Chinese worker transports bags of garlic at a market in Hefei, central China's Anhui province on May 19, 2010. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Ever thought of making an entry into the lucrative world of...garlic smuggling? That's what hardened garlic-smugglers Murugasan Natarajan, and Lakshmi Suresh decided to do in an effort to make a quick buck or two.

The duo told customs officials that a few thousands pounds of Chinese garlic was ginger, which isn't taxed in the UK, says the BBC.

That mean the canny garlic smugglers managed to dodge a cool $3,218,400 or 2 million pounds in custom taxes—not an insubstantial sum of money for an oft-maligned vegetable.

Read more from GlobalPost: Police arrest five over 9.5 ton garlic heist

Unfortunately for the garlic tricksters, their gambit didn't last long.

Customs inspectors checked the packages and noticed they were optimized to transport garlic, not ginger—and the house of cards came crashing down around Natarajan and Suresh, says FreshPlaza, a news website devoted to the fresh produce industry. (I was unaware such a thing existed, too).

Murugasan Natarajan, owner of London-based company Perfect Imports and Exports, was sentenced in his absence to six years in jail, as he skipped bail earlier this year. His 28-year-old assistant, Lakshmi Suresh, was given a 12 month suspended jail sentence and a $16,091 fine (10,000 pounds).

An investigation was first launched into Natarajan when a somewhat suspicious 7,000 tons of garlic was discovered by customs officials—who then noticed that while garlic exports had gone down, ginger exports had gone up exponentially, says the BBC.

Curiously enough, this isn't the only high-profile criminal action involving garlic this year. In June, five Romanians were arrested for attempting to smuggle 9.5 tons of garlic out of Austria and into Hungary—but were caught in the act, partially due to their noticeably pungent get-away vans.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/english-garlic-smugglers-get-six-years-smelly-bust