A GANG evaded more than £437,000 in customs’ duties as they smuggled more than 1.9 million cigarettes into North Yorkshire, a jury heard.

Peter Byrne, prosecuting for HM Revenue and Customs, described how undercover customs officers watched as a lorry driven by Leszek Liczner, containing the cigarettes hidden in IKEA containers, arrived in an industrial yard at Thorpe Wood, Selby, at 4.20pm on September 26, 2013.

Waiting for it were the gang’s organiser Marcin Muraczewski and assistant Piotr Wicko. They had flatpack cardboard boxes delivered the same day in a van driven by Wicko’s younger brother Michal to repackage the cigarettes for onward transport.

“This is not a few cigarettes in a suitcase. This is smuggling carefully planned and executed, smuggling on a very large scale indeed,” Mr Byrne told York Crown Court.

None of the £437,138 customs duty payable on the cigarettes when they came into the country from Holland had been paid.

Muraczewski, 37, and Piotr Wicko, 32, both of Cobham Close, Enfield, both admit being concerned in smuggling.

Liczner, 47, of Lubsko in Poland, and Michal Wicko, 27, of Cobham Close, Enfield, deny the same charge and are standing trial.

Lorry driver Liczner claimed he was just following his company’s orders, when he went to a junction in Holland and was met by a man who took him to a warehouse.

After the IKEA containers were loaded onto his lorry, he left for a Manchester destination, via Dover and Nottingham, but at Nottingham he but was diverted to Selby by the firm that had commissioned his company.

He, like Michal Wicko, claimed he knew nothing of the cigarettes.

Wicko, who picked Muraczewski up from Stansted Airport, claimed he was only doing him a favour when he agreed to pick up the cardboard boxes in London and deliver them to the Selby yard.

The trial continues.