A MAN from Bolton has been jailed for his role in a 'sophisticated criminal network' that smuggled illegal tobacco, stashed inside fridges, microwaves and vacuum cleaners, into the UK.

The gang evaded more than £12 million in tax before being caught out by a HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) surveillance operation.

David Hilton, aged 49, was the last member of the 11-man gang to be sentenced. He was handed a three-year jail term at Manchester Crown Court on Thursday.

It follows the sentencing of ringleader, Timothy Newman, aged 51, from Luxembourg, who was jailed for four years at the same court on 24 May.

HMRC's investigation revealed the huge fraud was conducted from Newman’s tobacco outlet in Marmer, Luxembourg.

Teams observed the smuggling ring at work in a large warehouse where hollow white goods, with no working parts, were being used to smuggle tobacco into the UK.

After being emptied, the carcases were shipped back to the warehouse in Luxembourg to be re-filled.

Nine other men, including two from Bolton, who co-ordinated the distribution, packaging and sales operation for the tonnes of tobacco, have also been jailed.

They were:

Andrew Saxon, aged 38, of Bolton, who was jailed for 18 months on 24 May.

Isaac Duxbury, aged 30, of Bolton, was jailed for 12 months on 21 January 2017.

Daryl Stringer, aged 50, of Bury, was handed a nine month jail sentence on 24 May.

Timothy Gibbs-Stringer, aged 55, of Wigan, was given a 26-month sentence to run concurrently with another sentence on October 13 of last year.

Kyle Langdon, aged 31, of Ivybridge, Devon, was jailed for two years on 21 March.

Robbie Dunn, aged 23, of Wigan, was sentenced to 12 months in jail, suspended for 12 months, on 13 October 2017. He was also told to carry out 100 hours unpaid work.

Richard Birtwistle, aged 56, of Wigan, was sentenced to eight months in jail, suspended for 12 months, on 13 October 2017. He was also told to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.

Raymond Hughes, aged 58, of Aughton, one of the key figures on the English side of the channel, was previously jailed for six years on 9 December 2016 for his part in this £12 million tobacco smuggling scam and a further six years for a second £10 million cigarette smuggling fraud involving another criminal ring.

Andrew Carver-Trotter, aged 35, of Devon, was sentenced to one year in jail on 22 March.

Tony Capon, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “This was a sophisticated criminal network set up to smuggle, transport, store and sell illegal tobacco on a massive scale, purely to evade tax and line their own pockets.

"This gang took smuggling and tax evasion to the limits and made a serious assault on the UK public purse, stealing millions of pounds from the taxpayer, robbing public services of vital funding and undermining legitimate, local businesses.

“We want to create a level playing field for businesses and to protect the taxpayer. To help us do this I urge anyone with information about the trade in smuggled or counterfeit tobacco to contact us online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.

"If you’re ever offered cheap or dodgy-looking cigarettes or tobacco, contact us – don’t let the crooks get away with this type of fraud.”

HMRC has begun confiscation proceedings to recover the stolen tax from the gang members under Proceeds of Crime legislation.