A truck driver who tried to smuggle more than 5 million illegal cigarettes into the UK hidden behind bags of soil, has been sent to prison for four-and-a-half years.
Sabastiaan Gahr, of Kinrooi, Belgium, who was convicted of excise fraud at Grimsby Crown Court, was found with illegal cigarettes worth £1,379,248 in unpaid duty at King George Docks in Hull. The 41-year-old was caught when Border Force officers stopped his vehicle as he arrived into the UK from Rotterdam on 13 June 2018.
Gahr said he was delivering soil and furniture to a garden centre in Liverpool but officers found 5,200,000 Business Royal cigarettes when they searched the truck. The cigarettes were packed in cardboard boxes, stacked on pallets, wrapped in white plastic and hidden behind bags of soil.
Gahr told officers he did not know about the cigarettes and was paid €500 to drive the HGV by a man he met in a pub. He was arrested and the cigarettes were seized. The case was passed to HMRC for investigation.
Eden Noblett, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “This was a shocking attempt to flood the UK with millions of illegal cigarettes. Gahr thought his haul of illegal goods would go unnoticed and he could make some easy money. But now he is paying the price behind bars.
“Trade in illegal tobacco undermines legitimate businesses and starves our public services of vital funds.”