European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) joined the border and law enforcement agencies of Ukraine, EU member states and Europol in their efforts to stop the operation of an illegal tobacco factory in Spain on 5 December 2017.
18 members of a criminal organization that was manufacturing more than two million cigarettes per day were arrested. They are suspected of illicit tobacco trade, participating in an organized criminal group, money laundering and violating the rights of workers. The organized crime group had invested almost EUR 3 million to start up their illegal tobacco factory in Granada and had even created their own cigarette brand. The workers, mainly from Ukraine and Bulgaria, were living in safe houses and forced to work more than 12 hours each day in a very unhealthy working environment.
European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine has supported the investigation performed by the representatives of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine in close cooperation with the Spanish Guardia Civil.
As a result of the investigation, the factory in Granada has been dismantled and eight searches were carried out in Granada and Malaga. During the searches, 10 tons of tobacco leaves, 4 tons of fine-cut tobacco, 4.5 million cigarettes, machinery, filters, paper and glue, were seized.
The production of fake cigarettes can cost the taxpayer billions of Euros a year in lost duty and taxes, money that could be funding the vital public services. By undermining legitimate retailers and illegal sale of tobacco, the criminals get profit and fund the organized crime. Moreover, fake cigarettes have no quality control in their manufacturing and may contain far higher levels of toxic ingredients which represent a serious health threat for the consumers.
“European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine has made fighting against illicit trade one of its flagship initiatives as it represents a major economic and security challenge for both countries and a serious concern for the European Union and its Member States as well. Working together – at the national, bilateral and international level – is the key to an approach that should prevent and reduce illicit tobacco trade in Moldova, Ukraine and EU Member States.”, noted Slawomir Pichor, Head of EUBAM.