Two truck drivers who attempted to smuggle more than 1.5 million cigarettes into the UK hidden between bags of wood pellets, have been sent to prison following an HMRC investigation.
Marin Vasilev, 40, of Willingham, Cambridge, was caught attempting to bring the cigarettes, worth £444,641 in unpaid duty, into the UK on 1 May 2018. Border Force officials stopped him at the Port of Dover and found the cigarettes in his HGV.
Vasilev was arrested, the cigarettes seized, and the case referred to HMRC. Venelin Nikolov, 45, from Sofia, Bulgaria, was traced two months later in connection with the seizure.
Despite both men denying knowing each other, officers discovered they had swapped trailers on their way to the UK from Bulgaria. The pair pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty at Maidstone Crown Court and were both sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Vasilev’s tractor unit and trailer were also seized.
Paul Morgan, director of Border Force South East and Europe, said: “The size of the detection made by Border Force officers should leave people in no doubt that tobacco smuggling is worth big money to the criminals involved.
“We will continue to work with HMRC and the police to identify the people responsible for attempts like this and bring them to justice.”