The largest number of smuggled cigarettes ever sold in Europe was “caught” by the customs services of the Independent State Tax Administration. It all started in February this year, when electronic customs systems identified 4 suspicious containers from Dubai. This is due to the fact that the recipient is blacklisted internationally suspected of smuggling.
The cargo, which was supposed to contain food, was undercover surveillance, during which a tiny mistake was revealed, which was made by an international illegal trade network. As a result, the “well-established scheme” of smuggling collapsed.
The recipient was changed on the accompanying documents, but … the businessmen forgot to change the mobile phone number as well. Thus, the authorities immediately mobilized and opened communication channels with Europol and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
After 4 containers were followed by 7 more, then 20 and at the end 4 more, that is, a total of 35 containers. An attempt at a scheme with a change in the name of the recipient did not bring any results, since all the documents contained the same phone number and the same addresses. Thus, the prosecution authorities suspended the activities of the network, revealing the largest case of cigarette smuggling in all of Europe. In particular, 340 million units of tobacco products were detained, while the amount of the corresponding duty reaches 72 million euros.
All documents indicated that the cargo in the container was food, and the final destination was Syria. But instead, the attackers’ goal was to send goods to Europe. Number one, a person of Syrian origin, is not in Greece and has not been arrested, but the investigation is also looking for those who are directly related to our country.
An indicator of the size of the “catch” is that for the whole year (2015/2016 without using the “X-ray” XRays system) the number of seized smuggled cigarettes did not exceed 250 million pieces.
According to customs officials, the case underscores the tremendous usefulness of XRays at the country’s entry gates. However, the contribution of a custom sniffer dog trained to detect tobacco was also important. According to customs officials, the investigation is ongoing, with the aim of establishing the whereabouts of the criminals, as well as with the aim of eliminating the criminal scheme of international scale.
According to an earlier expert report, the consumption of illegal cigarettes in the EU is estimated at 8.6% of total consumption, corresponding to 43.6 billion cigarettes and four times the legal consumption of tobacco products in Greece. The report shows that the illegal cigarette market in Greece jumped to 23.6% in 2018, making the country a negative leader in the EU. Moreover, it cost the state treasury 690 million euros in 2018.