A haul of over two million fake cigarettes was discovered in a lorry hidden between stacks of fridge freezers, a trial has heard.
The dodgy products were discovered in a Polish truck by customs officers as it was parked outside of Bargain Planet in Parliament Road, Middlesbrough.
In total, 2,182,040 Richmond Blue and 22,580 L&M counterfeit cigarettes were found amounting to £622,000 of evaded duty after the search on August 6, last year.
The owner of Bargain Planet, Mohammed Zada, 37, his brother Mustafa Zada, 30, along with Karzan Hasan, 23, Slawomir Paprocki, 38, and Anna Kabata, 34, all appeared for trial at Teesside Crown Court on Wednesday.
They all deny conspiring to carry, remove, deposit or conceal goods with intent to defraud Her Majesty between August 2 and September 15 last year.
Paprocki, the driver of the lorry, and Kabata also deny a second charge of fraudulent evasion of duty.
Andrew Stranex, prosecuting, said HMRC officers were on duty at the business where they saw a 40ft lorry with Polish plates.
Mohammed Zada was present with his brother Mustafa – who was said to be helping unload the goods.
Paprocki was also there with a “second driver” alongside Hasan who was stood in the trailer.
Pictures of over 50 fridge freezers that were stacked in the lorry were shown to the jury.
Mr Stranex said: “HMRC officers decided to search the trailer.
“They looked further and when they moved the fridge units, what they found inside was a number of boxes, the prosecution say they were deliberately hidden there.
“When the boxes were opened there was a number of non-duty paid cigarettes.”
When spoken to by police Mohammed Zada said he was waiting for white goods to be delivered but had not had the chance to examine the goods before HMRC inspectors turned up.
The court heard that Mohammed Zada would purchase white goods, mainly ones that were broken, fix them up and then sell them within the UK and abroad from Bargain Planet.
Documents issued in Poland were also recovered from Paprocki that showed a legitimate order of white goods was to be delivered in Bristol.
Another document was recovered that had a Sunderland delivery address – but when that business was contacted they confirmed they were not expecting any deliveries.
Mr Stranex added: “The prosecution suggest this is evidence of covering up why this load was in the North-east rather than Bristol.
After inquiries, the Bristol company confirmed they were expecting a delivery on August 7 – the day after the search.
Photographs of the lorry load were also taken in Poland before it left, but by the time the truck got to Middlesbrough the load had been rearranged.
The court heard that Paprocki was prohibited from touching the items and was not allowed to unload them himself.
Mr Stranex told the jury that Paprocki must have been aware the cigarettes were loaded onto the lorry.
Anna Kabata, 34, was said to have arrived in the UK with her partner on August 5 and rented a car which she drove to the North-east.
The court heard that mobile phones recovered form her showed she had been in contact with phones located in Paprocki’s lorry.
Mohammed Zada and Mustafa Zada, both of South Road, Norton; Karzan Hasan, 23, of Lorne Terrace, Sunderland; Anna Kabata, of Grace Road, Tipton, Birmingham; and Slawomir Paprocki, of Kutno, Poland deny all charges.