French law enforcement officers have arrested five individuals and seized 250,000 counterfeit cigarettes in a series of raids in Nantes.
This action follows an earlier one on April 9, which saw seven other members of the same organized crime group arrested in the cities of Nantes, Rodez and Montpellier. On this occasion, close to 5 tons of counterfeit cigarettes were seized alongside €37,000 ($44,720) in cash.
This organized crime group received the illegal cigarettes from two criminal networks based abroad, arranged for their storage in various cities in France and then managed their subsequent distribution through several criminal wholesalers—composed mostly of Georgian, Armenian and Ukrainian nationals—onto the French black market.
The same organized crime group was also involved in the management of payments and the corresponding financial flows. This criminal group has now been fully dismantled, according to Europol.
Since the start of the investigation, the French investigators collected evidence that more than 75 tons of counterfeit cigarettes were imported and distributed throughout France for a loss to the French budget estimated close to €22 million.
Europol’s Analysis Project Smoke supported this investigation and organized coordination meetings with the national investigators involved to discuss procedural requirements and identify a way forward.
Its experts also organized the intensive exchange of information needed to prepare for the action days in France.
This investigation was carried out in the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats.