Four men were dramatically cleared of evading £5.89million customs duty on cigarettes on what was expected to be the first day in a month-long trial.

Clapping and laughter rang out from the public gallery at Chelmsford Crown Court on Monday (October 31) as the men, including two from Loughton and one from Woodford Green, were formally cleared.

Mark Papworth, 50, of Englands Lane, and Bradley Jones-Chapman, 53, of Upper Park, both in Loughton, were charged with Andrew Miller, 48, of Brackley Square, Woodford Green, and Rafik Valli, 47, of Shrewsbury Road, Forest Gate.

All four men had earlier pleaded not guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court to cheating HMRC between July 1 and September 15 2014.

It was alleged that they intended to defraud customs by being concerned in the receipt of deliveries of tobacco products into the UK on which payable duty had been evaded.

Mr Valli also pleaded not guilty to acquiring or using criminal property, namely £100,000 cash, on April 22 2014.

However, on Monday prosecutor Gareth Munday told Judge Emma Peters that the crown had reviewed the case proposed to offer no evidence.

He did not offer any explanation why.

The judge formally entered not guilty verdicts on all charges to celebrations from the public gallery.

As they left, one of the defendants turned to the judge and said “Thank you your majesty”, to her amusement.