French Customs arrested two suspected members of a criminal gang and seized 40 tons of counterfeit cigarettes in the Marseille and Paris regions.
The criminal activities were conducted by an international criminal organization operating from Asia, according to Europol. The criminal group shipped counterfeit cigarettes by container from the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa, impersonating the names of legitimate importers.
The commercialization of these cigarettes in France would have represented a tax loss of around €15 million ($16.06 million). The volume of cigarettes confiscated during this operation represents the equivalent of approximately 10 percent of the total seizures made by French Customs in 2021.
Europol facilitated the information exchange and provided specialized analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed an expert to France to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases in real-time and to provide leads to investigators in the field.
In 2020, Europol created the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre to increase synergies between economic and financial investigations and to strengthen its ability to support law enforcement authorities in effectively combating this major criminal threat.