Two smugglers have been jailed after customs officers found over one million illegal cigarettes concealed within frozen chicken carcasses.
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stopped a refrigerated lorry on Mitcham Road, Croydon in May 2013.
They found the lorry contained 1.2 million illegal cigarettes, worth an estimated value of £288,240 in lost revenue, “professionally” hidden among frozen chicken pieces.
In a follow up search at a Croydon property and vehicle of one of the smuggling gang, officers found over 300,000 cigarettes, 400kg of shisha tobacco and 365kg of hand rolling tobacco, totalling a revenue loss of around £160,000.
Over £90,000 in cash was also discovered hidden throughout the house.
Four men were sentenced at the Old Bailey last Friday.
Miroslaw Rogalksi, 53, a Polish national from Ealing, was found guilty and sentenced to four years and nine months in prison.
Mariusz Dudek, 32, a Polish national from Middlesex, was sentenced to three years and six months in prison.
Amjad Jassim, 44, from Ealing, was found guilty and sentenced to a two year suspended sentence.
Alban Beqiri, 40, from Shepards Bush, pleaded guilty and was fined £150.
David Margree, assistant director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, said:
“This was a highly organised and professional tobacco smuggling plot designed to steal money from the public and undermine honest shopkeepers, with a sole purpose of lining their own pockets.”
“These individuals went to great lengths to hide their illegal activity and thought that by lying their crime would have gone undetected.”