The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) started out the year by carrying out several operations in Greece, Russia, Germany, and Spain that led to a total seizure of more than 75 million smuggled cigarettes between December 2015 and January 2016.
All the cigarettes seized in these operations were so-called “cheap-whites”. They were mostly Richman, Royal, RGD, and Jim, although new brands have also surfaced, such as the Vietnamese brand Aroma. Smuggled cigarettes cross borders, sometimes continents, and often pass through different ports before finding their way onto the European market.
This operation comes on the heels of another one the week before when OLAF intelligence led to the seizure of over 150,000 cheap whites at Madrid airport and London airport. Travelling from Ukraine, the smugglers were intercepted upon arrival.
In 2015, OLAF seized over 600 million cigarettes across Europe.
“Once again, the numbers show the excellent work and perseverance of our investigators, as well as the undeniable importance of European cooperation in this field,” OLAF director-general Giovanni Kessler said. OLAF brings real added value by providing its operational partners with key information on the movement of such goods and these efforts are showing clear results,” he added. Cigarette smuggling causes huge yearly losses to member states and the EU in evaded customs duties and taxes. Smuggled tobacco respects no rules and poses great risks to both consumers and businesses. It undermines anti-smoking and public health campaigns and violates the strict rules that the EU and member states have on manufacturing, distribution, and sale. OLAF investigates cases of customs fraud as they are financially damaging to the EU taxpayer.
OLAF has an explicit mandate to fight cigarette smuggling as part of the EU efforts to curb this phenomenon. It provides analysis, technical support and information obtained from Member States and third countries with the help of law enforcement agencies and other sources.