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Major smuggling ring before Berlin court

A gang member arrested at one of the largest illicit cigarette factories ever discovered in Poland

was sentenced to nine years imprisonment by a Berlin court, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) announced.

 

The convicted man of German-Russian extraction was part of a group that smuggled 1,200 tonnes of tobacco into the European Union between 2006 and 2011, when the factory was raided and group members arrested. Tobacco seized was sufficient to make about 120 million cigarettes. Most of the cigarettes were bound for the United Kingdom, where excise duties are high, OLAF said.

Three accomplices await trial. The convicted gang member was found guilty of evading tobacco duties and value-added tax in addition to producing illicit cigarettes, OLAF said. The arrests were made after a multi-national investigation coordinated by OLAF.

Cigarettes were made at locations in Poland and the Transnistria region in Moldova. Locations of the illicit factories were changed frequently, OLAF said. More than 100 containers, about 120,000 kilograms, of smoking tobacco were imported from Brazil and the United Arab Emirates via Lithuania. The goods were declared as raw tobacco (not subject to excise duties) destined for Armenia. However the tobacco was sidetracked to Poland for the production of illegal cigarettes, OLAF said.

A similar amount of smoking tobacco, declared as tobacco waste, was transported via ship from India and Belgium via the Ukraine to Transnistria, where it was used to product contraband cigarettes, OLAF said. (11 March 2013)