Two men have been sentenced after being caught smuggling more than two million illicit cigarettes through Port of Tyne.
Sandor Paloczi, 36, and Miklos Beca, 30, both of Hungary, tried to smuggle non-UK duty paid cigarettes, worth £612,691 in unpaid taxes, through the port hidden inside steel construction units in September.
Both admitted excise fraud at Newcastle Crown Court last month and Mr Recorder Hedworth QC sentenced each of them to 20 months in prison, suspended for two years, at the same court today.
Paloczi and Beca, who travelled to the UK from Ijmuiden, in Holland, were arrested at the port by Border Force officers.
The pair told officers they were delivering the steel structures to a company in Glasgow and were only carrying a small amount of tobacco products.
The officers then searched the lorry and found 2,280,800 cigarettes concealed inside the structures.
Both men said they did not know about the large haul of illicit tobacco products, which was seized by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Cheryl Burr, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: "This was a shocking plot to put millions of illicit cigarettes on the streets which would have undoubtedly harmed honest and hardworking businesses.
"Paloczi and Beca thought their illegal cargo was well hidden and would go undetected, but they were wrong.
"The illicit tobacco market takes money from public services and harms legitimate traders.
"If you have information on the sale of illegal tobacco please contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”