The police in seven European countries, including Poland, has carried out a coordinated strike against illegal traders of tobacco, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) reported on Monday.
“Authorities from seven countries [including Poland], with the active support of Eurojust, Europol and the European anti-fraud office OLAF, have dismantled an international organised crime group... which was involved in the large scale illegal trade of tobacco,” reads Europol’s website.
As many as “18 persons of different nationalities have been arrested.” The individuals are suspected of money laundering and the illegal trade and storage of around 670.000 kilos of tobacco. Three suspects from Italy will be interrogated.
The illegal trade has led to a loss of customs and excise duties for the Dutch fiscal authorities of approximately EUR 70 mln. A total of 29 searches have taken place in Poland, Italy, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Authorities from Romania and Cyprus have also contributed actively to the operation.
The criminal organisation allegedly bought tobacco in Italy, which was then processed and sold to traders to be used in illegal cigarette factories. The criminals were part of a brokerage system of illegally produced cigarettes. They also sold and repaired machinery for cigarette production.
As a result of international cooperation, cigarette factories have been dismantled since last year in Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, whose operators had close links to the criminals who have now been arrested.