TWO illegal immigrants involved in running an bootleg tobacco factory in Halesowen have both been put behind bars for two years eight months.

Investigators found 3,000 kilos of tobacco being prepared inside the Malt Hill Lane warehouse that would have avoided £600,000 worth of duty to the Government.

The illegal tobacco was being lined up for distribution at a cut price at a number of outlets in the Midlands, said Nigel Stelling prosecuting.

He said Quing Lin and Shaosa Lin were detained at the scene and they were found to be carrying over £15,300 in cash in a rucksack.

Tobacco on which about £180,000 duty should have been paid had already been converted while the rest was still waiting to be processed.

Quing Lin, aged 27, of no fixed address and 24-year-old Shaosa Lin of Viceroy Close, Edgbaston both admitted conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and the possession of money from the illegal operation.

Judge James Burbidge QC told them it was serious offending and he ruled that when they had ended their time in prison they will face deportation back to China.

Mr Stelling told Wolverhampton Crown Court that police officers found a "substantial" amount of tobacco inside the warehouse together with equipment that enabled raw leaf tobacco to be converted into hand rolling tobacco.

He added both men were over the time they were allowed to stay in the United Kingdom on their visas.

The court was told Quing Lin became involved in the racket because he was desperate to clear debts run up because of his gambling addiction.

Shaosa Lin had allowed his bank account to be used to pay rent on the warehouse and he had recruited other workers and assisted in the delivery of the raw leaf tobacco.