A pair of smugglers from London who used multiple mailbox delivery accounts to bring illegal cigarettes into the UK have been jailed for a total of nearly five years.

Jinsen Li, 49, of Tottenham and Kay Kuen Poon, 59, of Mill Hill, were caught trying to import 500,000 cigarettes and 30kg of hand rolling tobacco without paying the £150,000 tax and import duty due.

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found they used more than 20 mailbox delivery outlets throughout London to pick up the packages, which came from China.

Poon and Li were arrested in June 2016 after HMRC investigators obtained CCTV footage of them picking up parcels. Li even continued to collect packages days after he was released on police bail.

Poon admitted fraudulent evasion of excise duty on 13 November 2017 and was sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 5 January 2018 to 26 months in jail. Li denied the charge but was found guilty on 23 November 2017 and sentenced to 33 months in jail.

Mark Cox, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “This pair thought their criminal scheme would go unnoticed, but they were wrong and now they are paying the price.

“Criminals selling illicit tobacco threaten the livelihoods of hard working legitimate businesses by stealing their trade. I encourage anyone with information on this type of fraud to contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788887.”