F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone unwittingly smuggled five illegal immigrants into Britain in his convoy returning from the Monaco Grand Prix five days ago, it has been revealed.

The stowaways - believed to be from Eritrea in Africa - concealed themselves in one of a group of canvas-sided TV trucks heading home from Monte Carlo, and were discovered and subsequently arrested when the trucks arrived at Biggin Hill Airport in Kent, the headquarters of 79-year-old British billionaire Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM) company, and began to be unloaded.

The convoy crossed the Channel four days after the race around the narrow and tortuous streets of the glamorous Principality - the indubitable jewel in F1's glittering crown - and it is understood that unbeknown to the driver, the immigrants had snuck into the lorry whilst it was waiting for the ferry in Calais in France, where Border Agency staff failed to detect their presence.

"I can confirm five individuals were found at Biggin Hill Airport on May 20, who had recently arrived by road from France," a UK Border Agency spokesman told The Daily Telegraph. "The individuals involved were arrested and detained by the UKBA whilst their asylum claims are being processed."

"This is the first time we have had such a problem," added an FOM spokesman, according to the Daily Express.

There are currently calculated to be some 725,000 illegal immigrants living in Britain. Last week three more entered the UK via Calais by clinging perilously to the underneath of a school bus for more than three hours and 100 miles.