Illicit Tobacco Plants Dismantled in the Netherlands, Poland
Police in the Netherlands and in Poland arrested 30 people and seized 94 tons of tobacco and 5.4 million counterfeit cigarettes during an operation coordinated by Europol, the European police agency said on Wednesday.
The suspects were members of a “prolific organized crime gang flooding Europe with millions of counterfeit cigarettes,” and are believed to have been involved in violent robberies, the Europol statement said.
During the first phase of the operation, conducted in the Netherlands at the end of March, police dismantled two illegal tobacco factories in the cities of Schaijk and Heerlen.
Europol pointed out that the capacity of the dismantled illicit factories was more than a million cigarettes a day, equating to a “tax loss of over 243,000 euro (US$294,000) per day per factory.”
Dutch police arrested 21 Polish and Ukrainian nationals working in the factories and seized the 5.4 million counterfeit cigarettes, 40 tonnes of raw tobacco and 800 kilograms of hookah tobacco.
The second phase of the operation was carried out last week in Poland and targeted “the criminal masterminds running this gang,” Europol said.
Police raided a dozen of objects across the country, arrested nine people and seized 54 tons of tobacco as well as machinery used for the production of cigarettes.
Polish officers also “seized firearms and weapons, alongside clothing resembling police uniforms, radio communication devices and signal jammers,” the statement said.
Europol said that initial 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 to other European countries,” the European police agency said.