TWO men who were caught smuggling more than 50,000 cigarettes through Birmingham International Airport have been jailed.
An intervention by UK Border Force led to an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) which found Tomasz Stepaniuk, 28, and Krzysztof Zara, 40, both from Poland, tried to bring 53,400 cigarettes and 280 grams of hand-rolling tobacco worth £18,715 in taxes into the UK from Poland.
The non-UK duty paid products were discovered when the men were stopped by Border Force officers on arrival from Warsaw on November 21 this year.
Officers found Stepaniuk’s suitcase filled with 30,400 cigarettes and 180 grams of hand-rolling tobacco.
Zara was found with 23,000 cigarettes and 100 grams hand-rolling tobacco in his baggage.
The men were subsequently arrested by Border Force.
Zara claimed the cigarettes were for friends and gifts for those who would help him find work in the UK.
Stepaniuk and Zara admitted evasion of excise duty at Birmingham Crown Court on December 20 and were each sentenced to six months in prison.
Richard Young, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC said: “Stepaniuk and Zara thought they would get away with bringing thousands of illicit cigarettes into the UK but they were wrong, and now they are paying the price.
“Those involved in the illicit tobacco trade are stealing from the taxpayer, robbing public services and undermining legitimate, honest traders.
“If you have information on the sale of illegal tobacco please contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”