Italian Financial Police Seize 82 Tonnes of Counterfeit Cigarettes
Italian police seized 82 tonnes of counterfeit cigarettes and arrested one person during a raid of an abandoned factory in the industrial area of Pomezia, close to Rome, where officers found machinery and materials for the production of cigarettes and several foreign workers, including a number of Ukrainian refugees.
Pomezia is known for high volumes of mafia activity. Thursday’s seizure is one of the largest in counterfeit cigarettes in Italy in recent years, with 44 tonnes of them already packaged and 38 tonnes of tobacco still to be processed. It has all been submitted for destruction.
The value of the seizure is estimated at well over 19 million euros (US$21 million) in tax evasion.
Authorities said that the 10 workers they found were Russians, Moldovans, and Ukrainians who were forced to work under extreme conditions, including long hours, unventilated space, and no windows.
Several local institutions have made accommodation available to the exploited workers since the raid took place.
Police said the individual they arrested is the owner of the illegal factory. The investigation showed that the suspect has a prior record of smuggling, counterfeiting, illicit intermediation, and labour exploitation charges.
The production and smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes has been booming in Italy.
In December, the Guardia di Finanza intercepted a criminal group trafficking counterfeit cigarettes into Italy valued at 3.5 million euros ($3.8 million). The investigation resulted in 12 arrests and multiple asset seizures including 16,000 euros ($18,000) in cash, seven vehicles and a speedboat.
In June, an investigation conducted by OCCRP found that 17 tons of illicit cigarettes seized in Italy could be traced back to an executive in China Tobacco’s European factory, where he was working closely with several smugglers to help move cigarettes into Europe.