A gang who were caught unloading almost four million illegal cigarettes from a lorry in Loudwater have been sentenced.

Sirajadin Bahadin, 45 and Ireneusz Bocian, 55, from London and Faheem Ahmadzia, 55, from Doncaster, were arrested in August 2014 after HM Revenue and Customs officials seized 3.8 million cigarettes as they were being unloaded at a self-storage unit in Loudwater.

The Fest’ and Jin Ling branded cigarettes - worth around £950,000 in lost duty and taxes - were found hidden in a consignment of car parts.

In December 2014, the investigation led officers to the home of Mohammed Khalil, 43, in Enfield, North London.

Khalil and Sebastian Rak, 31, were arrested after officers found £220,000 in cash, wrapped in carrier bags, in Rak’s car.

A search of the property revealed records detailing sales for around 400,000 illicit cigarettes, directly linked to the Loudwater seizure in August.

David Margree, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “This was a major tobacco smuggling crime syndicate intent on lining their own pockets, regardless of the impact their theft had on taxpayers and the country’s finances.

“All of the cigarettes seized are illicit and manufactured solely for the smuggling trade. The content of these cigarettes, and the conditions in which they have been produced, are unknown and unregulated – they are not the so-called bargain they profess to be.”

Bahadin, Bocian and Ahmadzia were charged with tobacco smuggling offences and Rak and Khalil were charged with money laundering offences.

Bahadin, Bocian Khalil and Rak were jailed for three years, while Ahmadzia was given 15 months suspended for 24 months.

On sentencing at Southwark Crown Court this month, Judge Pawlak said: “This is a crime against society, evading duty which would have been used to fund public services including the NHS.

"The victims of this offence are the honest tax payers of the United Kingdom."