By Oisin Sweeney • 19 December 2020 • 19:15
POLICE in Romania have busted Europe’s biggest illegal tobacco gang with the help of Spain’s Guardia Civil and the EU’s Anti-Fraud Office.
Fifty people were arrested following raids on 40 properties across Romania, with huge amounts of production machinery and illegal tobacco products seized from warehouses, businesses, and homes across the country.
The Guardia Civil’s Central Operation Unit assisted Romanian and European authorities in the operation, and the gang reportedly once ran illegal Spanish cigarette factories in Toledo, Sevilla, and Cordoba. Those arrested are of Romanian and Moldovan nationality, though their operation spanned the majority of the continent.
The recent series of raids and arrests mark the successful conclusion of a Europe-wide crackdown on the lucrative illegal tobacco trade. Beginning in 2017, the operation has seen 200 arrests across Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, and Belgium. Overall a staggering 95 million illegal cigarettes were seized alongside 300 tonnes of tobacco.
According to the European Anti-fraud Office, illegal tobacco smuggling drains public budgets, poses serious health risks to consumers, and undermine public health campaigns. The booming trade reached its heyday during the 1990s when Balkan gangs took advantage of the collapse of Yugoslavia to flood Europe with illegal cigarettes.
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Oisin is an Irish writer based in Seville, the sunny capital of Andalucia. After starting his working life as a bookseller, he moved into journalism and cut his teeth as a reporter at one of Ireland's biggest news websites. Since joining Euro Weekly News in November, he has enjoyed covering the latest stories from Seville, Spain and further afield - with special interests in crime, cybersecurity, and European politics. Anyone who can pronounce his name first try gets a free cerveza...
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