Illicit tobacco factories dismantled in the Netherlands, Poland
Police in the Netherlands and Poland arrested 30 people and seized 94 tonnes of tobacco and 5.4 million counterfeit cigarettes in an operation coordinated by Europol, the European police agency mentionned Wednesday.
The suspects were members of a “prolific organized crime gang flooding Europe with millions of counterfeit cigarettes” and were allegedly involved in violent thefts, according to the Europol statement.
During the first phase of the operation, carried out in the Netherlands at the end of March, police dismantled two illegal tobacco factories in the towns of Schaijk and Heerlen.
Europol pointed out that the capacity of the dismantled illicit factories was over one million cigarettes per day, which equates to “a tax loss of over 243,000 euros (294,000 USD) per day per factory”.
Dutch police arrested 21 Polish and Ukrainian nationals working in the factories and seized 5.4 million counterfeit cigarettes, 40 tonnes of raw tobacco and 800 kilograms of hookah tobacco.
The second phase of the surgery was carried out last week in Poland and targeted “the criminal brains that run this gang,” Europol said.
Police searched a dozen items across the country, arrested nine people and seized 54 tons of tobacco as well as machinery used in the production of cigarettes.
Polish officers also “seized firearms and weapons, as well as clothing resembling police uniforms, radio communication devices and signal jammers,” the statement said.
Europol said early estimates are that the loss to the Polish budget will exceed 52 million Polish zloty ($ 13.72 million).
Investigators are trying to find “potential links with other European countries,” the European police agency said.