A gang from South Yorkshire who smuggled beer into the UK to avoid paying £3.8m in taxes have been jailed.
The four men, who came from Doncaster and Rotherham, used duplicated paperwork to bring truckloads of beer into the country from France, Belgium and Germany in a scam known as diversion fraud.
The gang brought large volumes of branded beer into the UK, including Budweiser, Carlsberg and Stella, via a bonded warehouse in Germany - where alcohol can be stored without paying duty.
According to the import paperwork, the truckloads of beer were destined for UK bonded warehouses based in Haydock, Doncaster and London.
However, the alcohol was illegally diverted to the gang's premises and sold on to small off-licences across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, predominantly in Doncaster, Hull and Scunthorpe, at duty-free prices.
Ringleader Huseyin Zerze, of Lonsdale Avenue, Doncaster, used a sandwich shop as a front to hide his criminal scheme.
It went from making £30,000-a-year to spending around £1.5m on alcohol in five months.
Stuart Taylor, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at the HMRC, said: “This was a sophisticated and shameful attack on the UK’s alcohol trade that undoubtedly harmed legitimate and hardworking businesses.
"Zerze and his criminal gang stole millions of pounds which should have been used to fund our public services and now they are paying the price behind bars".
Zerze was jailed for seven years for conspiring to cheat the public revenue at Leeds Crown Court yesterday.
His fellow gang members were also convicted of conspiring to cheat the public revenue.
Ozgur Kaplan, 27, of Pringle Road, Rotherham, was jailed for two years, Ibrahim Mayil, 38, of Sandall Park Drive, Doncaster was jailed for five years and Huseyin Mayil, 36, of Wheatley Hills, Doncaster was jailed for five years.
A HMRC investigation found the gang initially used Expo Cash & Carry Ltd, owned by Zerze, to run the fraud from premises in Doncaster, Liverpool and Roydon.
The business closed down in June 2013 after HMRC started looking into the company.
Zerze and his right hand man, Kaplan, continued the fraud using the company details and accounts of a former £30,000 a year sandwich shop in York called The Pita (UK) Ltd.
The gang leader also employed his uncles, Ibrahim and Huseyin Mayil, to set up a new business called Rotherham Cash & Carry Ltd, on Sandbeck Way, Hellaby, to take deliveries and sell the illegal goods once they arrived in the UK.
HMRC officers raided addresses, including Rotherham Cash and Carry, linked to the gang in November 2013.
At the same time, German authorities closed down the bonded warehouse after the company was found to be operating illegally.
They seized more than 425,000 litres of smuggled beer, worth £575,706 in duty, and £68,000 cash from various businesses premises.
The HMRC said proceedings are underway to recover any profit made from these crimes.