A Lincoln trio have been jailed for smuggling nine and a half million illegal cigarettes into the UK and trying to evade justice by fleeing home to Lithuania.
Andrej Jerofejev, 53, Vilmantas Simaitis, 48, and Martynas Nazaras, 38, are behind bars after they were arrested by Lithuanian authorities and extradited back to the UK by HMRC.
They were caught out when investigators discovered millions of illegal cigarettes concealed in window frames and laundry bags at a Lincoln farm outbuilding on June 15, 2017.
In total, they evaded around £2.8 million in excise duty by smuggling in the cigarettes.
Richard Paris, from HMRC, said: “These men thought they could evade justice by returning to Lithuania, but they were wrong.
“The trade-in illegal tobacco undermines legitimate traders, takes funding away from our vital public services and helps to fund serious organised criminals who bring misery to local communities.”
Jerofejev and Nazaras were arrested as they removed the illegal cigarettes, while Simaitis was arrested at the same time at a nearby petrol station.
The three had left the UK ahead of appearing in court on charges of fraudulently evading excise duty.
Jerofejev was arrested in Lithuania in August 2019, Nazaras in December 2019 and Simaitis in January 2020 – all three were extradited.
At Leicester Crown Court, on 18 February 2020, Simaitis was jailed for 21 months and Nazaras was jailed for 18 months. Jerofejev was sentenced to 18 months at Nottingham Crown Court on 22 October 2019.
European Arrest Warrants have been issued for two other men who are wanted in connection with the smuggling plot.