• May 26, 2024

Tobacco Smuggling Group Dismantled

 Tobacco Smuggling Group Dismantled
Photo: Europol

The Portuguese National Guard and the Spanish National Police have dismantled an organized crime group involved in excise fraud and the smuggling of tobacco products, reports Europol.

During coordinated actions on July 7, authorities seized 8,000 kg of tobacco worth €2 million ($2.36 million) and 454,000 cigarettes with a value of €113,500. They also confiscated seven weapons, 24 vehicles and €216,000 in cash and bank deposits. Seventeen people were arrested.

The criminal network was involved in the illegal import of large quantities of tobacco leaves and strips from Spain into Portugal. This raw material served the illegal production of both cigarettes and tobacco for roll-your-own cigarettes distributed on the Portuguese black market.

Earlier, in mid-June 2021, Spanish authorities discovered and dismantled cutting and processing facilities. The tobacco processed there was shipped to Portugal where it was stored in different warehouses before being further distributed. Since the investigation was launched in May 2020, the Portuguese and the Spanish authorities have detained 23 individuals and seized about 1.8 million illicit cigarettes along with 11 tons of tobacco, all of which was worth about € 3.2 million.

Illicit trade in tobacco for roll-your-own cigarettes continues to be a widespread criminal trend in Portugal. Certain “cheap white” cigarette brands have become so popular on the black market that criminal networks have started to counterfeit them rather than smuggle them. This illegal activity generates millions of euros in profit for the involved criminal organizations.

While total cigarette consumption continues to decline, the share of illicit cigarettes in Europe increased by 0.5 percentage points to 7.8 percent in 2020, according to a recent study by KPMG.