INTERNATIONAL CIGARETTE SMUGGLING RING DISMANTLED

OLAF /08/04 Brussels, 18 March 2008

The investigation of an international criminal gang responsible for smuggling millions of cigarettes into the EU from former Soviet Union countries and China has come to a dramatic end with the arrest of 26 people in Poland and Germany, including the presumed main organisers of the smuggling gang. The raids follow months of cooperation between the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the Polish Centralne Biuro Śledcze (CBS, Central Investigation Bureau of the National Police) and Germany’s Zollkriminalamt (headquarters of the German Customs Investigation Service).

"This success in the fight against international cigarette smuggling demonstrates once again the importance of close European co-operation of law enforcement agencies", OLAF Director-General Franz-Hermann Brüner said. "I congratulate the Zollkriminalamt and the Centralne Biuro Śledcze of the Komenda Główna Policji for their excellent work."

In addition to the arrests, the authorities in Poland seized nearly 7 million cigarettes, a lorry that was in the process of being loaded with contraband cigarettes, nearly €3 million in cash and 9 kilos of gold and jewellery following a series of coordinated searches in warehouses and private dwellings. The bank accounts of 29 suspects have been frozen and personal property including cars and houses has been seized.

The Polish authorities stressed that the success of the operation is the direct result of months of investigation and excellent cooperation between law enforcement agencies and OLAF, and is a clear example of the determination to tackle cross-border crime.

Alessandro Butticé
Head of Spokesman, Communication and PRUnit
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