A lorry driver who had "fallen on hard times" was caught trying to smuggle nearly £40,000 of illegal cigarettes into Hull.
Jielis van der Leij, 35, had been asked "a number of times" to bring tobacco into the UK before he finally agreed because of financial difficulties, Hull Crown Court heard.
Neil Coxon, prosecuting, said van der Leij, who had sailed from Rotterdam, was asked about the discovery and said "he knew it was illegal to bring tobacco into the UK without paying duty".
In total, there was 160kg of tobacco on which £37,544 of duty should have been paid.
In interview, van der Leij was "reluctant to confirm who his contact was", and though refusing to give their details said it was someone "from the Liverpool area" whom he was due to meet in Chester to hand over the cigarettes for money.
He said it was "his endeavour alone" and no one at the family-run business he worked for was aware of his illegal activity.
WATCH who was jailed last month
Van der Leij, care of an address in Wethouder Mooringstraat, Zaltbommel, Holland, admitted importing goods with intent to defraud Her Majesty of payable duty. Ian Phillip, mitigating, said he was previously of "impeccable character" with no convictions in the UK or Holland.
Mr Phillip referred Judge Paul Watson QC, Honorary Recorder of Hull and the East Riding, to a "very detailed pre-sentence report" which he said "assists the court greatly".
The judge said: "He'd fallen on hard times as a result of his divorce, and as a result of financial pressures he accepted this as a one-off."
'He won't do it again'
Mr Phillip said van der Leij wanted to continue working as a lorry driver and had been told by the Border Agency he would have to inform them when he was coming to the UK. "The chances of re-offending, your honour, are extremely low," Mr Phillip said.
Van Der Leij's family had travelled from Holland to support him at court, Mr Phillip said. He had been in custody since his arrest.
Sentencing Van Der Leij, the judge told him: "Jielis van der Leij, will you stand up, please. You are 35 years of age, no previous here or abroad. But you know you have put yourself at risk of a significant prison sentence by bringing in a very substantial amount of cigarettes into this country from the Netherlands, avoiding the duty.
"I accept you went through bad times earlier this year; that's no excuse for it. The fact is this does cross the custody threshold.
"If you had pleaded not guilty the sentence would have been 12 months. But you have pleaded guilty - I give you full credit for that and reduce it to eight months.
"I don't see there's any public utility in sending you back to prison today. I suspend that for 12 months. I'm sure you have learned your lesson. That last month spent in custody should have taught you that."
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