A businessman has been jailed after more than 5.5 million smuggled cigarettes were discovered at a an industrial unit in Huyton, Merseyside.

Stephen Nicholas Riozzi, 53, of The Park, Huyton, was found at the industrial unit in December 2011 by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators. The unit contained 20 pallets of cigarettes smuggled from China and over 182kgs of counterfeit hand rolling tobacco (HRT) worth an estimated £1.1m in evaded tax.

When Riozzi was arrested, he gave investigators a false address and denied any knowledge of the illegal tobacco products. However, HMRC officers found over £56,200 and 6,310 euros in cash hidden in wash bags in his wardrobe at his real address. After being presented with the evidence of his illegal business activity, Riozzi pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court in January 2014.

The seized cigarettes were branded Golden Seaglles, which are manufactured in the Far East solely for smuggling by organised criminal gangs and are not legitimately for sale in the UK. The cigarettes and HRT have been recycled to fuel the National Grid.

Sandra Smith, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said: “Riozzi has profited from the illegal trade in smuggled cigarettes and counterfeit tobacco and now faces a full investigation of his assets in the UK and abroad.

“We urge anyone with information about the sale, transport, or storage of suspect alcohol or tobacco in the Merseyside area to contact us on 0800 59 5000. You can also report suspicious trading, tax evasion or smuggling via our website to help us tackle organised crime in the north west.”