Law enforcement organizations in Spain and Portugal have dismantled an organized crime group involved in large-scale tobacco smuggling, according to Europol.
The criminals would illegally import from Spain to Portugal large quantities of tobacco leaf and strips, destined to produce both cigarettes and tobacco for roll-your-own cigarettes, which were subsequently distributed onto the Portuguese black market.
On June 24, police arrested eight Spanish and Portuguese individuals and seized 11 tons of tobacco leaf and fine-cut tobacco alongside 90,000 illegal cigarettes and 186,500 cigarette filters. The amount of tobacco seized is enough to produce some 11 million cigarettes worth €2.7 million ($3.22 million) in Portugal.
The criminals were managing the import of the tobacco via several companies established with the sole purpose of committing excise fraud. Cutting and processing facilities had been set up in Spain, from which the tobacco was shipped to Portugal where it was stored in different warehouses until it was distributed further.
The revenue loss generated by these tobacco products illegally imported from Spain to Portugal is estimated at more than €2 million.
Europol brought together the national investigators on both sides who have since been working closely together to establish a joint strategy to bring down this network. Since then, Europol has provided continuous intelligence development and analysis to support the field investigators.