A lorry driver who smuggled more than nine million cigarettes into the UK hidden inside air filter units, evading £2.5m in duty, has been jailed for three years after an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation.

Andrzej Krasnodebski, 45, was arrested by Border Force officers at Dover Eastern Docks on 13 June 2017. A scan and search of the lorry’s trailer revealed it was packed with cigarettes.

Officers discovered that the load contained 1,056 cardboard boxes, each containing a bubble-wrapped air filter unit. When the casing was removed, each unit had 9,000 cigarettes inside, with a total of 9,504,000 ‘Pect’ cigarettes.

The case was referred to HMRC for criminal investigation who discovered the import documents were false, and the legitimate UK business named on the paperwork was not expecting a delivery of air filters.

Tim Clarke, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “This was a well-planned criminal operation with millions of cigarettes concealed within individual air filter units. Had the smuggled cigarettes made it on to the UK’s streets they would have ripped off honest retailers. Krasnodebski thought he’d avoid detection, but his crime was uncovered and he’s now paying the price with a prison sentence.

“HMRC continues to work with other enforcement agencies to reduce the availability of illicit tobacco, which costs the UK around £2.4 billion a year. We encourage anyone with information regarding the smuggling, storage or sale of illegal cigarettes and tobacco to contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

Krasnodebski pleaded guilty to evading excise duty at Maidstone Crown Court on 13 July 2017. He was immediately jailed for three years.