Two men, who were caught smuggling more than 400,000 illicit cigarettes into the UK hidden inside electric boilers, have been jailed for a total of four-and-a-half years.
An investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found Dorian Serban, 61, and Florin Batcu, 29, both of Romania, tried to smuggle 436,930 non-UK duty paid cigarettes through the Port of Tyne, North Shields, in October 2017.
The men told Border Force officers they had travelled from Ijmuiden, Holland, to deliver 39 boilers to businesses in Birmingham and Newcastle.
Checks with the companies revealed this was a lie.
The officers then searched their van and found packets of Rothmans branded cigarettes stashed inside the electric boilers.
They were arrested and the case was passed to HMRC for investigation. The illicit cigarettes, worth £118,058 in unpaid taxes, were seized by HMRC.
Serban and Batcu were sentenced to 30 months and two years in prison respectively at Newcastle Crown Court.
Cheryl Burr, assistant director, fraud investigation service, HMRC, said: “Serban and Batcu thought the cigarettes were well hidden and would go undetected, but they were wrong.
“This was a shameless attempt to cheat the UK taxpayer and put thousands of illicit cigarettes on the streets. Now they are paying the price behind bars.
“Anyone with information on the sale of illegal tobacco should call our fraud hotline on 0800 788887.”