пятница, 25 февраля 2011 г.

2 customs officers arrested at Kalotina checkpoint over cigarette smuggling

2 customs officers have been arrested at Kalotina checkpoint over cigarette smuggling.
Speaking with FOCUS News Agency Commissar Zaharin Penov, Director of the Chief Border Police Directorate, said that the two were arrested at around 6:30 p.m. during a check. The two were returning from duty from the Dimitrovgrad station in Serbia. During the check it has been ascertained that they carry cigarettes with Serbian excise label, around 40 cartons. At the moment authorities are examining the vehicle used by the customs officers.
The two have been put under 24-hour arrest.

Illicit Cigarettes Flood Into EU From the East

Millions of illegally imported cigarettes, many made specifically for smuggling in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, are distributed within the EU every year after passing Poland’s northeastern borders. The point of entry isn’t accidental: Kaliningrad is surrounded by the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone.

Cigarette smugglers try their luck on border crossings with Russia and Belarus, and the open border with Lithuania, where customs officers use increasingly sophisticated X-ray machines and sniffing dogs to stop them.

“The majority of those crossing the Polish-Russian border are smugglers,” says the regional customs office based in Olsztyn, in northern Poland. The region borders with the region of Kaliningrad, where Baltic Tobacco Factory produces Jin Ling, a brand not available through legal channels in the EU. The company hasn’t returned calls for comment.

Its cigarettes cost $3.20 for a carton of 10 packs in Russia. On the Polish side, they cost almost $2 per pack and around 3 pounds in Britain, Polish authorities say. Varying tax rates are a major factor behind the price differences.

According to British American Tobacco estimates, 20%-25% of smokers in England smoke illegally imported cigarettes, with the proportion rising to 50%-70% in poorer regions there.
An attempt to smuggle certain amounts above limits is a minor infraction under Polish law, punished with fines. Three years ago, a smuggler attempted to bring in 7,000 packs. He was given a fine of €10,000, which he paid in cash, Polish customs officials said. No surprise there, even including the fine, the smuggler would have made a profit of thousands of dollars had he been able to sell the ware in Poland. No small sum for someone living in a country where the average net salary is just over $1,000 a month.

More than three years after Poland and Lithuania joined the European Union’s passport-free Schengen area, cigarettes smuggled through the EU’s external borders with the Baltic States pour into the rest of the EU through the open border between Poland and Lithuania. Customs in the region of Podlasie, which borders Lithuania and Belarus, last year seized about 110 million cigarettes, about 60% on the freeway border with Lithuania where customs officials stop selected trucks for inspection.

Smugglers, trying to avoid customs officers who stand at the roadside of the former border checkpoint, use roads through the forests, which reopened as barbed wire was removed when Poland and Lithuania joined the Schengen zone.

Smugglers also use the border with Belarus, where not every truck is X-rayed. Last year, authorities seized a truck full of cigarettes, declared as wooden boards. The smugglers used 12 tons of steel sheets to make the vehicle’s weight correspond with the weight of the declared payload, said Maciej Czarnecki, spokesman for the customs office in the Podlasie region.

Smuggler who brought in 18 million cigarettes

A storage firm boss helped smuggle more than 18 million cigarettes into the country by hiding them in family board games.

James Spencer Hall, 35, used his Bury-based company to traffic the tobacco and try to avoid a £3.5m tax bill, Chester Crown Court heard.

He admitted a charge of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of duty on the importation of 18,400,000 cigarettes, between December 2008 and March 2009.

Hall will be sentenced next month at Warrington Crown Court.

He was caught after customs officers intercepted the cigarettes at docks in Middlesbrough in one of the largest single seizures of its kind.

The tobacco was found in two containers at Teesport Docks on Boxing Day, 2008.

Thin layers of family board games had been placed over the cigarettes to make it appear as if the cargo was legitimate.

But customs officers found the illegal haul underneath.

The containers were set to be released into the care of Man2Man – the storage and distribution company owned by Hall.

He was arrested at his home on Friar’s Close, Rainow, near Macclesfield, in August 2009.

Hall, who lives with his wife and young child, had denied wrongdoing but pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial.

Philip Curran, prosecuting, told the court: "This defendant’s role was to ensure the safe onward supply of these cigarettes by ensuring they were safely transported into the country to those who wanted to sell it."

The court heard it was not clear where the cigarettes were being taken, because those further along the criminal chain had covered their tracks and cloned details of a legitimate company.

There was no suggestion that the defendant was selling the cigarettes himself.

But Judge Thomas Teague QC said Hall ‘had a responsible and important role in the importation of these cigarettes’.

Man2Man, which was struggling at the time of the offences, has since gone into administration, the court heard.

A customs spokesman said: "Hall had claimed that he was storing the cigarettes for a company closed over the Christmas holidays but none of his excuses proved to be true.

"He attempted to flood the UK with millions of illegal cigarettes, evading tobacco duty to line his own pockets, thereby not only depriving the UK of essential public funds, but also undercutting legitimate retailers."