NEARLY ten million black market cigarettes worth almost £3million in unpaid duty have been seized by Border Force.

Scanners detected anomalies with a Polish-registered lorry which arrived in the Port of Harwich on a ferry from the Hook of Holland.

Paperwork for the vehicle showed it should have contained dozens of washing machines but only four appliances were onboard. Border Force officers inspected the vehicle’s trailer and found huge pallets of shrink-wrapped Lambert and Butler silver cigarettes.

The Polish driver was arrested on suspicion of evasion of excise duty but was later released without charge. The cab and trailer he was driving was seized.

Had the smuggling attempt not been detected, it would have cost the Treasury almost £3million in unpaid duty and VAT.

It is the second largest seizure of cigarettes by Border Force at Harwich this year.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Every day Border Force teams are protecting the UK from violent gangs hell-bent on smuggling in weapons, drugs and illicit cash.

“Border Force’s hard work has stopped criminals from making huge profits from black market cigarettes and cheating the taxpayer out of millions of pounds.”

In 2019, Border Force protected the Treasury from losing more than £210millon in unpaid duty from black market cigarettes.

The operation at Harwich International Port, which happened on October 8, came in the same week Irish national John Mullen, 67, was jailed for trying to smuggle £7.8 million worth of Class A drugs through the same port.

Mullen was rumbled in February after Border Force officers used an X-ray device to locate a false floor in his lorry trailer.

He was sentenced to nine years behind bars.