Two cigarette smugglers who tried to hide the proceeds of their crime by stashing it inside their wardrobes have been jailed along with one other member of their gang, after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). A fourth gang member will be sentenced next month.

The gang’s smuggling plot was foiled in October 2012 when HMRC officers watched Jan Wojcik from London and Pawel Pasnik from West Bromwich meet with the driver of a Polish HGV on a secluded country lane just off the M25.

Both men were arrested at the scene on suspicion of tobacco smuggling offences.

HMRC officers searched Wojcik’s black Mercedes car and found £14,000 in cash hidden inside a compartment in the boot. A search of his home revealed a further £15,240 hidden among the contents of his wardrobe.

A search of Pasnik’s home uncovered 16,000 Marlboro Gold duty free cigarettes and £76,000 wrapped in a bin liner, again hidden inside his wardrobe.

Seven months after his arrest and while still on bail, Wojcik was caught red-handed by HMRC officers as he delivered 53,000 duty free cigarettes to a London address. Wojcik was accompanied by Karolina Tomczyk from Middlesex and Polish lorry driver Maurisz Kardas. The cigarettes were estimated to be worth around £16,000 in lost excise duty and VAT.

Wojcik and Pasnik were later charged with money laundering and the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty. Tomczyk and Kardas were charged with the fraudulent evasion of Excise Duty.

All of the cash seized during the operation is currently subject to forfeiture proceedings.

Jan Wojcik was sentenced to three years and three months in prison, Pawel Pasnik was sentenced to three years and six months in prison, and Mariusz Kardas was sentenced to four months in prison. Sentencing on Karolina Tomczyk was adjourned until 21 November.

David Margree, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said: “Cigarette smuggling and laundering the proceeds of crime are both serious offences. HMRC takes robust action to detect, disrupt and bring those responsible before the courts. These offences have a devastating impact on honest retailers who have to compete with the black market and on the nation’s finances with around £2bn lost in excise revenue each year.”