LORRY drivers who tried to smuggle £50,000 out of the country by stashing the ill-gotten cash behind a fridge have been put behind bars.

Polish nationals Tomasz Migacz, 26, and Leszek Wojciechowski, 38, were stopped by Border Force officers at Harwich International Port as they waited to board a ship bound for the Netherlands.

Matthew Sorel-Cameron, prosecuting at Chelmsford Crown Court, said the two men denied they were carrying any cash.

But a search of the lorry’s cab revealed exactly £50,000 in cash had been stuffed into plastic bags and concealed beneath a fridge.

“Cash was also found dotted around the cab totalling an amount around £10,000, but that is not the subject of sentence for your honour today,” said Mr Sorel-Cameron.

“In interview Mr Wojciechowski remained silent, while Mr Migacz gave a prepared statement denying the commission of an offence.

“Neither man has previous convictions at this court or elsewhere.”

The vehicle was stopped on July 18 and officers analysed its tachograph.

The analysis revealed the lorry had entered the UK the day before using the Calais to Dover crossing.

Both men had driven the vehicle in the 24 hours leading up to their arrest.

Fergus Malone, mitigating on behalf of Migacz, told the judge his client is “remorseful and of previous good character”.

He said: “The defendants do actually pick up some money from Polish stores to take back to Poland, effectively the company is a wholesaler and I don’t think there is any dispute about that.

“He lent himself to an enterprise for a bit of extra money and he deeply regrets it.

“He is very sorry and it won’t happen again.”

Both men admitted a charge of possessing criminal property.

Folashade Abiodun, mitigating on behalf of Wojciechowski, urged the judge to read character references sent by her client’s wife and son.

She said: “He has been a lorry driver for 15 years, worked for the company for six years and in that six years was travelling back and forth to the UK until this incident in July.

"Prior to that nothing of this sort occurred.

“He misses his family and he misses his home.

“He would like to return home as soon as possible and is very sorry for his actions and very remorseful.

“He accepts he should have asked more questions and should have been more careful.”

Sentencing the pair to 18 months in prison, judge Charles Gratwick said the two men had acted out of greed.

“I see no real distinction between the two of you, what I do see from both of you is greed,” he said.

“You both by virtue of your plea accept that you knew what was contained in the package behind the fridge.

“This was an attempt by the two of you to flout the law of this country and intended to better yourselves.”