Two men have been jailed after they were caught using a Hampshire barn to store more than 2.7 million smuggled cigarettes, evading around £660,000 in excise duty.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators discovered Dariusz Kochanek, 29, from Basingstoke, Hampshire; and Ireneusz Kosowski, 42, from New Malden, Surrey, with 2,780,460 smuggled non-UK duty paid cigarettes, which were being stored inside a barn near the Hampshire village of Bramley, ready for onward distribution.
On 18 June 2014, HMRC officers watched a van in a public car park in Bramley that was met by Kochanek, who then drove the van to the barn in Ash Lane.
HMRC investigators followed and raided the barn, where they also found Kosowski and two shipping containers full of Mayfair and L&M branded cigarettes.
The men were arrested and later charged with tobacco harbouring offences under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
Kochanek and Kosowski were found guilty at Winchester Crown Court on 17 May 2016 and sentenced to 42 months imprisonment. A third man was found not guilty.
David Margree, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “These men thought they were under our radar and could get away with smuggling and storing vast quantities of illegal tobacco. They are now paying the price for their criminal actions.
“Tobacco smuggling robs communities of vital public funds and harms the livelihood of legitimate retailers. We encourage anyone with information regarding the smuggling, storage or sale of illegal tobacco to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 595000.”