Brussels, 27 April 2010
Two charged in Spain for smuggling 70 million cigarettes
In an investigation coordinated by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Spanish Customs, Vigilancia Aduanera, has seized 50 million cigarettes suspected to have been destined for the illicit market in the EU. In addition to the 50 million cigarettes seized, two further containers with 20 million cigarettes ordered by the same criminal gang were identified.
Customs authorities in Spain initially seized 4 containers of cigarettes (40 million) and, during the investigation that followed, were able to seize a further 10 million cigarettes.
"The shipping containers were declared to be carrying humanitarian aid on the customs documents that accompanied them" said Nicholas Ilett, acting Director General of OLAF "This case demonstrates the extent to which criminals will sink in their attempts to make a profit. This is a great result for Spanish Customs, and for French and Greek customs which assisted with the investigation. It is also a great result for OLAF and European taxpayers because the loss of some €10 million has been prevented".
The suspicions of Spanish Customs were first aroused because of the unusual routing of the containers. The 10 month investigation which followed uncovered a series of transactions and brass-plate companies, as well as several false documents which had been presented to customs authorities. OLAF coordinated EU missions to Greece and Dubai with the Spanish investigators in order to obtain the evidence necessary to bring the case before the Spanish Courts.
Two people have been indicted by the criminal court in Spain in relation to this case. Under Spanish law, smuggling charges can be brought in relation to all 7 containers of cigarettes.
Head of Unit "Spokesman, Communication and Public Relations Department"
European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)
Tel : +32 2 2967200
Fax : +32 2 2998101