CIGARETTE SMUGGLING: SEVEN ARRESTED IN THE NETHERLANDS AND THREE IN GERMANY, THANKS TO INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
Press Release OLAF/14/2003, 06 May 2003
on information received by the European Anti-fraud
Office (OLAF), Dutch, German and Belgian investigation
services have arrested 10 people and seized
several tonnes of smuggled cigarettes
In August 2001
Belgian Customs asked OLAF to coordinate a cigarette
smuggling case. Some 25,000,000 British-brand
cigarettes were seized in the port of Antwerp.
They had been hidden in a conventional shipload
of peat moss coming from Lithuania and Latvia.
Requests for mutual assistance were sent to
the different countries concerned including
Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the United Kingdom,
the USA and the Netherlands. A coordination
meeting was held in June 2002 with representatives
of the investigation services of Lithuania,
Estonia, Belgium, the United Kingdom and France.
The available information was exchanged and
plans made for further investigations.
As a result of several interesting developments,
OLAF held a second meeting in October 2002,
which was attended by investigators from the
Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. The investigations
had by then identified the route taken by the
An important person, with a criminal
background directly linked to this fraud, was
identified by Customs in Estonia. In Lithuania,
an organisation involved in the smuggling was
On the basis of information gathered by OLAF,
FIOD, (the Dutch Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation
Department) opened a new enquiry into cigarette
smuggling from the Baltic States. The consignee
was the same company as the one that had appeared
in some of the peat moss consignments. Instead
of bringing the cigarettes into the European
Union via seaports, the organisation used trucks
and cover loads.
On the basis of the results of the Dutch investigation,
it was agreed at a meeting held in Utrecht,
attended by the countries concerned, that a
joint action would be organised. This resulted
in the arrest of seven people in the Netherlands,
the seizure of 10,350,000 cigarettes and the
arrest of three Latvians in Germany, as well
as the discovery of some 4,000,000 cigarettes
in a warehouse in Belgium. Belgian Customs also
found some 35 tonnes of illicit hand-rolling
tobacco in another warehouse.
In another location in Belgium, a complete tobacco
production plant was discovered, used by the
criminal organisation to manufacture and package
counterfeit British-brand cigarettes.
OLAF will continue to lend assistance to ongoing
investigations and judicial proceedings in the
different countries and congratulates its national
partners on the results obtained.
Mr Alessandro Butticé Spokesman of the European Anti-fraud Office
Fax : +32 (0)2 299.8101