The driver of a coach and his only passenger have each been jailed for 12 months, after 900kgs of raw leaf tobacco was found hidden behind a false wall inside a shower in the vehicle they were travelling in.

Uldis Krievkalns, 50, and Vilnis Skunstins, 54, were intercepted by Border Force in May 2015, after they arrived at the Port of Harwich. The pair raised suspicions when they told officers they were travelling to Ireland to be metal workers in an iron foundry, but couldn’t say where they were going or who they were going to be working for. A search of the vehicle revealed the tobacco which had been hidden behind a false wall in the coach’s shower cubicle. The total duty evaded is estimated as £179,928.18.

In addition to the raw leaf tobacco a further 22 kgs of counterfeit Golden Virginia hand-rolling tobacco was also found.

Paul Barton, assistant director, criminal investigation HM Revenue and Customs, said: “This was an organised attempt to smuggle illegal tobacco into the UK. The men compounded their fraudulent activities by producing a lease agreement from a third party claiming the coach didn’t belong to them – this agreement was later proven to be fake and merely a vain attempt to stop the coach being confiscated. They have now lost not only their coach, but their illegal tobacco and their liberty.

“If you know of anyone involved in smuggling please report it by calling our 24 hour Customs hotline on 0800 595000.”