EU Authorities Seized 430 Million Illegal Cigarettes in 2021
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) said that just in 2021 it took part in national and international operations that resulted in the seizure of 93 million cigarettes smuggled into the EU as well as 253 million confiscated outside of the Union.
Additionally, 371 tonnes of raw tobacco which was to be used for illegal cigarette production were seized, while the police confiscated 91 million of illegally produced cigarettes within the European Union.
“These seizures have saved EU Member States roughly 90 million euro in lost revenue, and we have helped target the criminal gangs that are behind this illegal business,” OLAF Director-General Ville Itälä said.
A few years ago, OLAF’s investigators detected a new trend of waterpipe tobacco smuggling, identifying trafficking routes for more than 60 tonnes of this product.
“Smugglers deploy various tricks and schemes (for example declaring at customs almost 10 million illicit cigarettes as suitcases) and they have adapted their business model to the pandemic, and to tougher controls at the EU’s borders,” Itälä. “That is why we are so proud to work together with all of our many partners. This is the best way to achieve concrete results.”
The fight against illicit tobacco trafficking is one of the key targets of OLAF’s investigations. The authorities work on identifying and tracking trucks and other vehicles that might import cigarettes misdeclared as other goods to the EU.
One billion people could die from the use of tobacco this century, according to the World Health Organization.
About 34.2 billion contraband or counterfeit cigarettes were consumed just in the European Union in 2020, or 7.8 percent of the overall cigarette consumption. The illegal sale of these products cost the EU budget 8.5 billion (US$9.48 billion) in taxes, according to a 2021 KPMG report, commissioned by Philip Morris Products SA.