TWO Merseyside men caught with more than six million illegal cigarettes at an industrial unit have been sentenced.

Lee Slevin, 36, formerly of Liverpool, and Patrick Walsh, 60, of Wyndam Avenue, Roby, were arrested by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers after they were caught loading the cigarettes into a van at a storage unit in Cheshire.

HMRC officers seized 6,150,000 Mayfair cigarettes, worth almost £2 million in unpaid taxes, and £1,500 cash, from the van and unit on Brooks Lane, Middlewich, in February 2016.

They were both charged with fraudulent evasion of excise duty.

Slevin, currently of no fixed abode, said he was the “warehouse keeper” and was in charge of the goods, worth a total £1,974,150 in unpaid duty.

Walsh said he was only there to buy cigarettes.

Both men admitted excise fraud at Chester Crown Court and were sentenced at the same court on February 23.

Slevin was sentenced to three years in prison.

Walsh was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years.

A HMRC spokesperson said: “This was a shocking attempt to put millions of illicit cigarettes on the streets, which would have caused real harm to legitimate, hardworking traders. Both men thought they could deal in smuggled cigarettes without being caught. But they were wrong and now they are paying the price.

“We will continue to pursue criminals like Slevin and Walsh who think it is acceptable to pocket money, which should be used to fund our vital public services. Anyone with information about tobacco fraud should report it to HMRC online or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC online at