A gang of smugglers tried to smuggle millions of counterfeit cigarettes into Sussex disguised as ice cream, yoghurt and frozen pizza.

Two lorry loads of 13 million smuggled cigarettes worth about £2.7 million in duty were stopped at Newhaven and Dover.

The first load of 7,602,400 cigarettes smuggled in by the gang arrived at the Newhaven Port on March 31 2010.

Driver Timothy Shaw, from Motherwell, was stopped and the vehicle was searched.

Documents described the load as yoghurt but officers found a number of cardboard boxes including some labelled as frozen pizza which actually contained cartons of smuggled cigarettes.

Eighteeen hours later a second lorry, owned by Terrance Crowhurst from Uckfield, loaded with counterfeit cigarettes, arrived in Dover.

The documents described the cargo as ice cream but instead the unit was full of black shrink wrapped pallets containing millions of cigarettes.

Crowhurst, 46, of Oaklea Way, Uckfield, was sentenced to 33 months in jail and was ordered to forfeit his vehicle at Maidstone Crown Court.

Shaw had used part of his criminal earnings to take expensive holidays in Florida and New York. He was jailed for 21 months.

The gang’s ringleader, Douglas Allison, of Agnew Crescent in Stranraer, was sentenced to six years and six months in his absence.

He was arrested on Thursday night at Heathrow on his return to England after fleeing to Dubai and given an extra four months.

John Cooper, HM Revenue and Customs assistant director of criminal investigation, said: “These four men are criminals who were motivated purely by greed, not caring who they harmed. They were just out to make a huge profit at the expense of honest taxpayers.

“The sale of smuggled cigarettes is un-regulated and these products are often sold to children and young people.

“Local shopkeepers also suffer when sales are lost to the criminals who peddle these harmful, and often counterfeit, illegal goods.”

Anyone with information on the illegal sale of cigarettes or tobacco should contact the 24 hour Customs hotline on 0800 595000.