Published: 14:15, 25 January 2019
| Updated: 14:21, 25 January 2019
A lorry driver who smuggled more than 5 million cigarettes inside false washing machines into the UK has been jailed.
The machines had no working parts but were made to look real, with fake control panels and energy efficiency certificates.
Border Force officers stopped the vehicle at the Port of Dover and a search of the trailer revealed 5.3 million Mayfair cigarettes, worth almost £1.6 million in lost duty.
They were concealed within 16 fake commercial washing machines.
Now Mariusz Glineck has been jailed for two years and eight months.
He was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on Wednesday .
Glineck had been stopped on September 27 last hear, arrested and HM Revenue and Customs investigated.
He was a bus driver who began working as a lorry driver this January.
He said he picked up the fully loaded lorry at a petrol station in Slubice, Poland, and was due to make the delivery to an address in Newark, Nottinghamshire.
Glineck, 51, of the town of Miedzychod in Poland, had on November 9 pleaded guilty to fraudulent evasion of excise duty contrary to S170 (2) Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
The estimated duty evaded was £1,598,378 on 5,384,600 cigarettes.
On sentencing, His Honour Judge Huseyin said: “The reality of duty evasion is a large amount of money due to go in to the public purse goes in to the hands of criminals.
“As such it is not a victimless crime, one has to think of the nurse’s salaries that £1.5m would pay. That is why courts take duty evasion so seriously."
Tom Hunnisett, assistant director in the fraud investigation service for HMRC, said after the case: “Glinecki thought he could smuggle these cigarettes into the UK and do the dirty on all honest taxpayers – but we’ve cleaned up in the end.
"He is now behind bars, paying for his crime.
“This illegal trade has a harmful effect on legitimate businesses and deprives the country of funding for our vital public services. The duty evaded on these illicit cigarettes was equivalent to the starting salaries of 65 police officers in Kent for a year."
The starting salary for a police officer in Kent is £24,518 and this figure includes an annual £2,000 South East allowance.
Dave Smith, deputy director of Border Force South East and Europe, said: “My officers are always alert to the different ways smugglers may conceal illegal goods, which in this case has led to a substantial seizure.
“Once items are seized, we work closely with law enforcement partners such as HMRC to bring criminals to justice.”
Anyone with information about smuggling, selling or storing of illicit tobacco should report it to HMRC online or contact its Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.