Three men caught smuggling more than a million cigarettes into the UK have been jailed.
The gang was found carrying 1.15 million illicit cigarettes in the back of their van by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators in Bedford in March last year.
Wembley resident Piotr Zwolinski, 45, Zana Osman, 37, of North Finchley, and Iraqi national Halkwat Walli, 34, all received jail sentences for the crime which is estimated to have cost the public purse £310,000 in lost duty.
Osman was also found with £18,665 in laundered cash hidden under the driver’s seat of his BMW soon after being bailed in March 2017.
He denied charges of smuggling cigarettes and money laundering, but was found guilty by a jury at Luton Crown Court on November 27 2017.
Osman was jailed for three years at Luton Crown Court on Friday (January 19).
Her Honour Judge Barbara Mensah made an order for the £18,665 cash to be donated to an offenders’ charity.
She said: “Osman’s account was dishonest and incredible and he deprived society of money.”
Zwolinski and Walli pleaded guilty to smuggling cigarettes.
Zwolinski was sentenced to 14 months in jail, suspended for two years, given a home curfew and ordered to do 240 hours of unpaid work.
Walli, who had been held in custody since his arrest in March 2017 as he faced deportation action by the Home Office, was sentenced to nine months in jail on September 5 2017 at Luton Crown Court.
Walli is appealing against deportation.
Steve Bowling, assistant director of the HMRC Fraud Investigation Service, said: "These criminals were aiming to undercut legitimate retailers with this large quantity of smuggled cigarettes and tobacco.
"HMRC continues to target the supply of illicit tobacco, which costs the UK around £2.5 billion a year – money that could be used to fund vital public services."
HMRC urges anyone with information regarding the smuggling, storage or sale of illegal tobacco to call its fraud hotline on 0800 788 887.
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