Plans by an international criminal gang to flood the EU market with millions of illegal cigarettes came to an abrupt end recently when Polish Police raided an illegal cigarette factory near to Warsaw, Poland. During the raid, the Polish Police arrested 32 people and seized cigarette making machinery and materials, including over 50 tonnes of cut tobacco. A consignment of nearly 5 million cigarettes, which had already been loaded on a lorry for distribution, was also seized.
The raid was the result of investigations in several countries which were coordinated by the European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF. Shortly after the illegal production facility was seized in Poland, 4 people were arrested in Germany and over 70 tonnes of tobacco destined for the factory were seized in Lithuania as part of the same operation.
The Director-General of OLAF, Mr Giovanni Kessler, expressed his congratulations to the Polish Police and the Customs authorities in Germany and Lithuania for their achievements in this case. "This was an extensive criminal enterprise. The criminals could have produced around 120 million cigarettes with the tobacco which has been seized, representing potential losses to the EU taxpayer of €24 million, and there is no doubt that further deliveries of tobacco were planned. This operation clearly demonstrates the outstanding results that can be achieved through international cooperation". Mr Kessler went on to explain that the factory had been raided shortly after production had started. "This was a very large factory with considerable production capacity. If it had continued to run, losses to the EU and Member State budgets would potentially have been €6 million a week".
An estimated 10 billion euro in taxes and duties are lost to the budgets of the EU and Member States each year as a result of cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting.
Head of Unit Spokesman,
Communication, Public Relations
European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)
Rue Joseph II, 30 B-1049 Brussels
Phone: +32 2 296 72 00
Fax: +32 2 2998101