Two London-based brothers, who evaded £3.6m in tax by distributing alcohol smuggled into the UK, have been jailed for a total of more than 12 years.

Tayfun Donger, 32, and Taylan Donger, 29, both of Edmonton, who masterminded the fraud, were caught unloading smuggled beer at a warehouse in Epping, Essex on 10 November 2016.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers arrested the men as they removed the alcohol from an HGV that had been brought into the UK from Belgium by Conor McCreesh, 26, from Northern Ireland.

The officers seized more than £4,000 in cash, the equivalent of 119,000 pints of beer, 6,000 bottles of wine and 830 bottles of spirits, along with the HGV, a forklift truck, pump trucks and two vans, which had been used to carry or handle non UK duty paid alcohol.

Investigations revealed that during a seven-month period, they had distributed smuggled alcohol worth £3.6m in unpaid duty and VAT into the UK.

Days before the start of the trial, Taylan Donger attempted to flee to Turkey, but was arrested by HMRC officers on 20 September 2018 at Stansted Airport and remanded in custody.

The Dongers denied evading excise duty and VAT, but were found guilty by a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court on 24 October. Tayfun Donger was given a six-and-a-half year sentence and Taylan six years on 1 November. McCreesh admitted his role in the fraud and possessing false documentation was given a 15-month jail sentence, suspended for two years and ordered to do 270 hours of unpaid work.

Brett Wilkinson, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “The Donger brothers thought they had developed the perfect scheme to illegally trade in illicit alcohol, diverting millions of pounds from public finances straight into their pockets, until HMRC officers stopped them in their tracks.

“These men were stealing from the taxpayer and undercutting legitimate traders. The money they evaded was the equivalent of the starting salary for 130 new nurses in London.

“We urge any member of the public who know of anyone committing this type of crime to report it to HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788887.”