A lorry driver caught smuggling 2.6 million counterfeit cigarettes into the UK hidden behind boxes of rotten apples has been jailed for 21 months, after an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation.

Pawel Michal Maroszek, 32, was stopped by Border Force officers at Dover Eastern Docks in May 2016, after a scan revealed a suspicious load in the refrigerated lorry he was driving. Officers discovered 2,640,000 cigarettes surrounded by pallets of rotten apples.

The estimated excise duty evaded was £655,327. The case was referred to HMRC for investigation.

Maroszek had previously pleaded not guilty to the crime, but changed his plea to guilty before his trial started at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday 24 October. He was jailed for 21 months.

Alan Tully, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Maroszek thought the cigarettes were well concealed within the load of rotten apples and wouldn’t be discovered. But he was wrong and he is now paying for his crime.

“We continue to work with other enforcement agencies to reduce the availability of illicit tobacco, which costs the UK around £2bn a year in stolen revenue. Don’t let criminals profit by undermining legitimate retailers. Anyone with information about the smuggling or illegal sale of tobacco can report it by calling our 24-hour hotline on 0800 595000.”