On the 9th of November, EUBAM held the annual Task Force Tobacco meeting in Chisinau, the Republic of Moldova. Representatives from law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, SELEC, Europol and OLAF, as well as the private sector, examined the implications of Russia’s war of aggression on the illicit cigarette trade in Europe.
The meeting concentrated on three topical issues – new trends in illicit cigarette trade, changes in smuggling routes and investigation of illegal manufacturing. During the meeting, the business sector presented its overview on the European illicit cigarette markets; the representatives of the EU agencies talked about the results and most effective methods of combating illicit cigarette manufacturing; and Ukrainian and Moldovan officials shared insights on the recently dismantled illegal cigarette manufacturing sites in their countries.
All parties concluded that the war had changed the economic landscape and influenced the patterns of the illicit tobacco trade. The sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus and the blockade of some transport corridors have significantly decreased the smuggling of cigarettes to the EU but resulted in the increase of illicit cigarette manufacturing there. Therefore, the participants emphasized the need to strengthen surveillance over raw materials for cigarette production and listed specific risk indicators to detect illicit trafficking at the earliest opportunity to better cope with that phenomenon.
The European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) launched Task Force Tobacco in 2010. It offers a platform for law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Poland, and Romania, as well as EU agencies and the private sector, to combat illicit tobacco trade.