Four men who smuggled 2.7 million cigarettes and over 774kg of tobacco into the UK, most of them hidden in a cover load of frozen chickens, have been jailed.

In May 2013, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stopped a refrigerated lorry at business premises in Mitcham Road, Croydon, which had arrived in the country through Killingholme Port in North Lincolnshire. The lorry’s consignment was declared as frozen chicken but an examination found it contained 1.2 million illegal cigarettes. The cigarettes, worth an estimated £288,240 in lost revenue, had been concealed within the load of frozen chicken pieces.

During follow-up searches of the London home and vehicle of one of the gang, Amjad Jassim, officers discovered a large quantity of smuggled tobacco - 315,950 cigarettes, 409kg of shisha tobacco and 365kg of hand rolling tobacco. Over £92,550 in cash was also discovered hidden throughout the house. The uncovered tobacco, with a revenue loss of around £164,688, was seized and the cash detained under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

A further 2,460 non-UK duty paid cigarettes were seized from the home of a second defendant, Mariusz Dudek. Confiscation proceedings to recover the proceeds of their crime are under way.

Miroslaw Rogalksi was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison and Mariusz Dudek was sentenced to three years and six months in prison. Amjad Jassim was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work and Alban Beqiri was fined £150.

David Margree, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “This was a highly organised and professional tobacco smuggling plot designed to steal money from the public and undermine honest shopkeepers, with a sole purpose of lining their own pockets. These individuals went to great lengths to hide their illegal activity and thought that by lying their crime would have gone undetected. They were mistaken and will now have time to reflect on their criminal actions.

“HMRC is determined to disrupt this criminal trade which costs the UK around £2.1bn a year. I ask anyone with information about the smuggling, distribution or sale of illicit cigarettes or tobacco to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 595000.”