A gang who illegally sold cigarettes - defrauding the taxman of £16.5 million - have been jailed.
Keith Allen, of Oswaldtwistle, and James Willmott, Clayton-le-Moors, along with two other men were jailed for a total of more than 12 years at Preston Crown Court.
The pair were involved in a multi million pound operation selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco.
The court was told that the ringleader of the operation was Iqbal Haji who kept a supply of illegal cigarettes at his Blackburn home and that Allen and Willmott and another man Wayne Brown would visit the house to pick up tobacco to sell on.
The men were arrested in September 2014 and the court heard Allen made 33 visits to Iqbal Haji’s home and had received hundreds of thousands of cigarettes.
Outlining the case for the prosecution, Jane Dagnall told the court the property where the cigarettes and tobacco were being kept was under surveillance and two notebooks detailing transactions were seized by customs officers.
Mr Ken Hind, defending Mr Willmott, who had avoided duty of more than £140,000 said: “This particular case has affected him, he has suffered a great deal.
“He pleaded guilty at the plea case management hearing, he is extremely remorseful.”
Allen, 66, of West View, Oswaldtwistle, was found guilty of three charges of the import or export of goods with intent to defraud her majesty of duty and one count of acquiring, using or possession criminal property. He was sentenced to four years in jail. The court was told he had defrauded the tax payer out of more than £350,000.
James Willmott, 54, of Wellfield, admitted two counts of import or export of goods with intent to defraud her Majesty of duty and was jailed for 16 months.
Wayne Brown, 51, of Darwen, pleaded guilty to two counts of the import or export of goods with intent to defraud duty and was jailed for 13 months.
Iqbal Haji, 50, of Blackburn, admitted two counts of intent to defraud and one of acquiring, using or possession of criminal property. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment. Mr Andrew Nuttall, defending Mr Allen said: “He is thoroughly ashamed of himself and had has been too stubborn to admit it.”
Sentencing the four men, Judge Heather Lloyd said: “This was a sophisticated and organised crime.”
Judge Lloyd said all four would serve half their sentence in prison with the remainder on licence.