Three men have been jailed after a tobacco smuggling operation was uncovered by an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation.

Lorry driver Milos Dukic (46) of Ljubljana, Slovenia, was stopped by Border Force officers at the Port of Dover as he attempted to board a ferry to Calais, France, in February 2016. A search of the cab of the lorry he was driving uncovered £205,645 in bank notes, hidden in a black plastic bag. The £20, £10 and £5 notes weighed more than 14 kilos in total.

Dukic was arrested on suspicion of money laundering and the matter was referred to HMRC for investigation. HMRC investigators found that the cash smuggled by Dukic was from an illegal tobacco scam orchestrated by Warrington man, John Parker (57). Forensic evidence linked Parker to the plastic bag, found in the cab, containing the cash.

Dukic pleaded guilty at Canterbury Crown Court on 30 June 2016 to one count of money laundering by concealing criminal property. He was jailed for three years on 23 August.

Parker and lorry driver Dragisa Jovanovic (63) were jailed on 19 July 2016 for excise duty evasion, after a tobacco smuggling investigation by HMRC. The two men were arrested at an industrial estate in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, in April 2016, as they unloaded 300 boxes of tobacco from a lorry, which also contained furniture.

A total of 1.8 tonnes of illicit tobacco, worth more than £350,000 in evaded excise duty, was seized. A bin liner found in Parker’s car contained £125,000 cash intended as payment for the tobacco; another bag contained £16,000 in cash as payment for the lorry driver - Jovanovic.

Parker was jailed for four years and Jovanovic was jailed for two-and-a-half years at Luton Crown Court.

HMRC has seized the cash and confiscation proceedings are now under way.

Alan Tully, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Forensic investigation allowed us to link the cash found in the lorry’s cab back to the wider tobacco smuggling operation, and put these men behind bars.

“Working with our partner agencies, HMRC will not hesitate to investigate those committing tax related fraud, and recover any proceeds from the crime, to ensure that no one is beyond our reach. Anyone with information about alleged financial crime or tobacco smuggling can contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 595000.”