Ilvarasan (L) and Vinothan Rajenthiram (R) were jailed for a total of 40-and-a-half years. Merseyside Police

Two brothers who worked together in a Merseyside newsagents have been jailed after they groomed young girls with free sweets and mobile phone top-ups in a six-year long campaign of sexual exploitation.

Ilavarasan Rajenthiram, 26, and brother Vinothan, 27, committed offences against nine girls, aged between 14 and 16, between 2010 and January 2016.

Ilvarasan, 26 of Wallasey Village, Wirral, was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison, while Vinothan, 27 of Wigan, received 18 and a half years, for a combined total of 30 charges.

The two brothers owned convenience stores in Birkenhead, Walton and Garston, and groomed teenage girls who were customers in the shops.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that the victims were customers at the family-run Best Price newsagents, in Birkenhead, which is now closed.

Using sweets and cigarettes to entice their victims, they took the girls out in sports cars and offered them alcohol to coax them into having sex in nearby properties.

The pair, known as Ara and Vino by their victims, had pleaded not guilty during their trial claiming they thought the girls were aged 16 or above and that some of the allegations were lies.

Merseyside Police launched an investigation into the brothers last year after one of the victims was reported to the police as missing in January 2016 and she was traced to the brothers.

During the five-week trial, 18 teenagers and young women gave evidence and in a statement made to the court, one of the victims said the experience had "ruined my life".

"I had not done anything wrong," she said reported the BBC. "I was just a vulnerable, naive child who should have been safe in his company."

Ilvarasan Rajenthiram, from Birkenhead, was found guilty of 15 counts of sexual activity with a child, three counts of sexual assault, and two counts of perverting the course of justice

Vinothan Rajenthiram, also from Birkenhead, was found guilty of four counts of sexual assault, one count of rape, four counts of sexual activity with a child, and one count of perverting the course of justice.

Det Supt Dave Brunskill described the pair as "calculating sexual predators who went to extraordinary lengths to groom their victims" in a statement.

"In most cases, they gained the trust of the young girls then took the relationship further by coercing the girls to take part in sexual activity after plying them with alcohol," he said.

"Victims mistakenly believed that these men genuinely had feelings for them and they didn't realise that they were being groomed and sexually exploited."