Six men have been sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for their part in a major cigarette smuggling scam resulting in tax evasion of £833,913.
The five men from the West Midlands and a Hungarian national were sentenced yesterday at Wolverhampton Crown Court. A further defendant received a suspended sentence.
The men were arrested after a HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation, which uncovered attempts to smuggle five million cigarettes into the UK from Hungary between September 2005 and March 23, 2006.
Sandor Kalman Nyari led the gang and masterminded the illegal importation of the cigarettes. The 47-year-old of Brereton Road, Willenhall, stored them in a unit at Bagnall Street, Great Bridge, Tipton, prior to distribution. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
The other defendants all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cheat.
These included 31-year-old Dean Jackson of Pritchard Avenue, Willenhall, who was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.
Stuart Griffiths, aged 25 of Ravenscroft Road, Willenhall, 32-year-old Shaun Mervin Williams, of Stafford Street, Walsall, and 38-year-old Jason Dean Jackson of Wolverson Close, Willenhall, all received an 18-month prison sentence.
In addition, Csaba Berecz, a 41-year-old Hungarian national, was sentenced to seven months in prison and Stefan Davis, aged 19, of Pinson Road, Willenhall, received a two year suspended sentence, 200 hours unpaid work and £250 costs.
Eddie Jones, HMRC assistant chief investigation officer, yesterday said: "Smuggling cigarettes is not a harmless tax fiddle.
"It cheats the Government of revenue which could be used to fund public services such as schools and hospitals. We will not hesitate to take action against those smuggling cigarettes into the country.
"This sentence will serve as a deterrent to others. This is an excellent result for all honest traders who are having to compete against the black market."
He added: "This case was successfully prosecuted by the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office, which shows that together we will successfully pursue and bring to justice those breaking the law to protect all our communities from the effects of criminal activity."
A further two men, both Hungarian nationals linked to the investigation, have been separately convicted and sentenced recently for their involvement in related cigarette smuggling activities.