TWO men who tried to smuggle more than 100,000 illegal cigarettes were today jailed.

Rashid Ramadan, 38, of Peartree Avenue, Yiewsley, and Mohammed Ali, 33, from Canterbury had suitcases containing cigarettes worth £36,904 in unpaid duty.

The pair were stopped by Border Force officers at Manchester Airport in December after flying from Iraq, via Qatar and Heathrow.

The case was referred to HMRC for investigation.

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Both admitted knowing what was in the suitcases and pleaded guilty to fraudulent evasion of excise duty.

Ali said they were paid £1,000 by a man they met in Iraq to smuggle and that someone was to collect the cigarettes at the airport. 

Ramadan was jailed for eight months and Ali was for 10 months at Manchester Crown Court.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “It is clear they were couriers working for an organised crime gang.

“Tobacco smuggling steals money from the public purse. The duty evaded in this case is equivalent to funding two kidney transplants on the NHS.”