A service station attendant was among seven tobacco fraudsters who have been jailed for evading almost £760,000 in tax.

The men were linked to the crime after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) uncovered their central storage unit in Bolton, Greater Manchester, and caught some of the gang there in April 2014. HMRC officers identified a number of vehicles being used to transport illegal cigarettes around the North West region. The vehicles were observed travelling to and from a commercial unit on Hacken Lane in Bolton. Following the arrest of one driver and the search of his van, HMRC officers entered the industrial unit and discovered more than three million smuggled ’Pride’ brand cigarettes hidden in 80 metal tubes.

HMRC carried out further searches in Greater Manchester, London and Lincolnshire, and arrested the gang members including Munaf Patel 47, a service station attendant, of Blackburn Road, Bolton, Greater Manchester.

The seven men pleaded guilty before trial to the evasion of £757,765 in UK Excise Duty and were jailed on for a total of 11 years and four months, with Patel receiving a 12-month sentence.

Four of the men now face confiscation proceedings to recover their criminal profits and the stolen tax.