On April 30, after EUBAM issued an alert, Romanian Police did a major seizure of cigarettes in Moldova–Romania border. Based on information from Moldovan Customs, EUBAM tracked the suspicious shipment of 12,400,000 pieces of illegal cigarettes and alerted the UK Her Majesty Revenue and Customs, the European Anti-Fraud Office and Europol.
The tobacco products were meant for Greece. If it had reached the target destination, EU budget would have lost an estimated of 400.000 EUR in unpaid customs duties and taxes. European Anti-Fraud Office identified that European Union and its Member States lose more than EUR 10 billion per year because of the illicit trade in cigarettes.
The problem with illegal cigarettes trade nowadays is not only the smuggling of brand-named cigarettes, but also the smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes, which becomes more and more profitable business these days. The so called ‘illicit whites’ are the cigarettes legally produced in one country but then smuggled abroad without customs duties, VAT and excise duties being paid, thus, causing huge loses to the state budgets. They are produced exclusively for export and are not available in the legal market. For instance, ‘Jin Ling’ cigarettes, contained in the seized consignment, are among other countries also manufactured in Moldova. But according to the available data, until now there have been no seizures of ‘Jin Ling’ by the Moldovan Customs on the territory of Moldova.
Cigarette smuggling is presently assessed as one of the most serious risks to border security and combating this phenomenon is a priority for border management services in Moldova and Ukraine. EUBAM leads a Task Force Tobacco which provides for monitoring of transits and exports, sharing analytical and operational information between partner services, coordination of risk management, joint investigations and a range of other enforcement activities such as joint border operations and targeting suspicious shipments.
This was one of the major recent seizures of illegal cigarettes, which followed previous two earlier in April and March this year. All these seizures were the outcomes of the Task Force Tobacco, which was established in 2010 and since then coordinated the joint efforts of Ukrainian and Moldovan customs agencies in combating the smuggling of tobacco products from Moldova and Ukraine to the European Union.