Published: 14:00, 17 July 2017
A lorry driver, who smuggled more than nine million cigarettes into the UK hidden inside air filter units, has been jailed for three years.
HM Revenue and Customs estimates that Andrzej Krasnodebski evaded evading £2.5 million in duty.
He was sentenced last Thursday at Maidstone Crown Court.
Krasnodebski, 45, was arrested by Border Force officers at Dover Eastern Docks on Tuesday June 13.
A scan and search of the lorry’s trailer revealed it was packed with cigarettes.
Officers discovered that the load contained 1,056 cardboard boxes, each containing a bubble-wrapped air filter unit.
When the casing was removed each unit had 9,000 cigarettes inside, with a total of 9,504,000 of a brand called Pect.
The case was referred to HMRC for criminal investigation who discovered the import documents were false and the legitimate UK business named on the paperwork was not expecting a delivery of air filters.
Krasnodebski, of Wegrow, Poland, pleaded guilty to evading excise duty.
Judge Julian Smith told him: “You are a man of good character with responsibilities, but the decision to involve yourself in this was yours.”
Tim Clarke, assistant director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said after the court hearing: “This was a well-planned criminal operation with millions of cigarettes concealed within individual air filter units.
“ Had the smuggled cigarettes made it on to the UK’s streets they would have ripped off honest retailers.
"Krasnodebski thought he’d avoid detection, but his crime was uncovered and he’s now paying the price with a prison sentence.”
HMRC says that it continues to work with other enforcement agencies to reduce the availability of illicit tobacco, which costs the UK around £2.4 billion a year.
It wants anyone with information regarding the smuggling, storage or sale of illegal cigarettes and tobacco to contact its Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.
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