On 30-31 October the EUBAM‘s Annual Task Force Tobacco meeting took place in Odesa. The event brought together experts from law enforcement agencies in the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and UK, as well as representatives from EU agencies Europol, Frontex and OLAF. Ukrainian Tobacco Association “Ukrtutun” and the major cigarette producers also attended.
The participants shared experience on recent trends, new modus operandi, emerging risks and effective countermeasures against tobacco products smuggling and committed to pool resources for further enhancing their efforts aimed at strengthening the fight against cigarette smuggling. The parties also acknowledged that the inter-agency risk analysis groups proven their effectiveness helping border and law enforcement agencies to be better prepared for the changes on the illegal cigarettes market. Moreover, the partnership between law enforcement agencies and law-abiding producers of cigarettes was assessed as mutually beneficial for reducing the illicit trade in tobacco products.
In the framework of this meeting, EUBAM also shared with the participants the final results of the Joint Border Control Operation (JBCO) ‘SCORPION’, completed in August 2019. The Operation focused on cigarettes smuggled into the European Union, in particular originating from duty-free shops and was co-organized by EUBAM and OLAF with the participation of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Romania. Following the enhanced control activities based on intelligence information carried out by all the participating agencies and the information exchanged via the AFIS IT platform made available by OLAF, over 15 million pieces of cigarettes, smuggled through BCPs and also green border, were seized by the law enforcement agencies involved in JBCO ‘SCORPION’.
“Smuggling of cigarettes and their illegal production have become a serious problem over the past years. The cooperation among border and law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and EU has proven to be a valuable instrument in identification of determined smuggling way and channel as well as finding and dismantling facilities for illegal production of cigarettes. The good practices of information exchange and joint investigations should be continued and enhanced.”, stated Slawomir Pichor, the Head of the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine.