Published: 21:20, 05 April 2017
A lorry driver caught smuggling 4.5 million illicit cigarettes into the UK hidden among a load of plasterboard has been jailed.
Lucasz Walczak, 36, was investigated by HMRC after being stopped by Border Force officers at the Eastern Docks in Dover.
A scan of the lorry’s trailer unit showed an irregular cargo, which revealed the massive haul of Richmond branded cigarettes hidden within the load.
Walczak was arrested and the illegal importation was referred to HMRC for investigation.
HMRC investigators discovered he faked import papers and used shipment documents from November 2016 for a legitimate delivery of fire retardant board, in an attempt to hide his crimes.
It happened on March 1.
Walczak has been jailed for 32 months for evading £1.2 million in excise duty.
Alan Tully, assistant director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, said: “Walczak thought he’d get away with smuggling millions of cigarettes by using previous cargo information and fake documents.
“But the vigilance of officers at the frontier stopped his crimes and he’s now paying the price.
“HMRC continues to work with Border Force to target the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2.4 billion a year, damages legitimate businesses and makes unregulated tobacco more accessible to children.
“We have seized more than 3.5 billion illicit cigarettes in the last two years alone."
Walczak pleaded guilty to evading excise duty at Maidstone Crown Court on March 30.
Sentencing Walczak, Judge Julian Smith, said: “Your role was not only to drive, but to present documents and seek to prove they are true.
“A critical role, more likely to succeed if you persuade officers.
“You had control of the cigarettes, the trust imposed in you was huge.”
The illicit cigarettes will be destroyed.
Meanwhile, lorry driver Dariusz Tyczynski, 53, and his passenger Dariusz Nejfert, 49, were also each jailed for 16 months for smuggling 850 kilos of Turner hand-rolling tobacco into Dover, evading £168,385 in duty.
The tobacco was packed in plain cardboard boxes within a load of gaming machines and electrical goods.
They were caught on February 15,
The pair, from Poland, pleaded guilty and were jailed at Maidstone Crown Court.
Anyone with information about people suspected of smuggling, selling or storing illegal tobacco is asked to call 0800 788 887 or report it online at https://www.gov.uk/report-tobacco-or-alcohol-tax-evasion
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