SURREY, U.K. - Six criminals of an organized crime gang have been imprisoned for smuggling nearly three million illicit cigarettes into the U.K. via hollowed-out tabletops. Four of the criminals will serve a total of 10 years in prison.
Officers seized more than one million Jin Ling and Blue Fest cigarettes – worth more than $254,000 in unpaid excise duty – and 81 pouches of counterfeit Golden Virginia hand-rolling tobacco.
"This was a brazen and well-planned criminal operation aiming to flood the U.K. with illegal cigarettes smuggled inside table tops, which would have ripped off taxpayers and honest retailers,” said David Margree, spokesman for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
HMRC estimates around 120,000 cigarettes were smuggled inside each tabletop.
Jin Ling is a Russian brand of cigarettes designed explicitly for smuggling. They reportedly contain asbestos and other dangerous chemicals.