Astute work by the Moldovan Intelligence and Security Service (MDISS), with the support of EUBAM, has led to the closing down of an international tobacco contraband network defrauding EU member states of millions of euros.
MDISS began to suspect some time ago that large-scale exports of tobacco from several EU member states that were marked up as destined for Moldova never actually crossed the Moldovan border, but were diverted to EU states. Moldovan law-enforcers asked the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) to help establish the contacts and co-ordination necessary to work with EU partners to put an end to the scheme. EUBAM brought the Moldovan agencies together with their Italian counterparts and the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF). The information-sharing and cooperation established enabled law enforcement agencies in Italy and Germany to dismantle the network late last year. The contraband network, which was centred on a tobacco factory in the Italian town of Turin, falsely marked up tobacco exports as destined for Moldova as a way to dodge customs duties and taxes. The scheme is calculated to have cost the Italian budget in excess of €90mn. Twenty people were arrested following an investigation by the Italian authorities and OLAF last November.
The breaking up of the contraband network underlines the value of Europe-wide cooperation against organised crime.