Five men from Merseyside were arrested after 10 million smuggled cigarettes were seized in Cheshire.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said the cigarettes were brought to Ellesmere Port from Dubai, via The Netherlands, and had a duty value of £1.8m.
The five men - all from the Wallasey area of Wirral - have been bailed pending further inquiries.
HMRC said the cigarettes, which have now been recycled, were destined for the black market in Merseyside.
Mike O'Grady, HMRC assistant director criminal investigations, said: "We have prevented people from being conned into buying these cigarettes.
"Buying cheap, smuggled cigarettes on a street corner, at the local pub or under the counter isn't a bargain - it means trading with criminals."
Officers made the seizure on Monday.