A self-employed lorry driver from the West Midlands who tried to smuggle more than eight million cigarettes into the UK by claiming he was delivering textiles, has been jailed for three years after attempting to evade £1,600,000 in duty.

David Brian George, 59, from Bilston, was stopped at the Humber port of Killingholme in April 2011 as he arrived on the early morning ferry from Rotterdam. Instead of a load of textiles for delivery to the Midlands, officers discovered 33 pallets containing 8,788,600 mixed-brand cigarettes.

George, who trades as Lyndai International Transport, was arrested and interviewed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators.

A search of George’s home revealed further quantities of goods smuggled from China including cigars, hand-rolling tobacco and cigarettes not legally available in the UK.

Sentencing George on Friday, HHJ Tremberg described the defendant as a “foot-soldier in a sophisticated, high-value smuggling operation” who was “significant, substantial and indispensible.”

In addition to his jail sentence George was ordered to pay costs of £1,600. The smuggled tobacco and cigarettes were destroyed.

Jo Tyler, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC said: “George used his knowledge of the haulage industry to set up a large-scale smuggling operation. He was only out to make a quick profit, without concern for the consequences on the livelihoods of honest shopkeepers.

“This sentence should send a clear message to those attempting to avoid paying their dues that the penalties can be severe. If you know of any illegal smuggling activities, please call our 24-hour hotline on 0800 595000 or go to http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/reportingfraud/online.htm