19 March 2014

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For the second time within a week, Greek authorities carried out a successful operation against international cigarette smugglers. On the basis of information gathered by the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF), the Financial and Economic Crime Unit (SDOE) and Greek customs seized once again nearly 20 million contraband cigarettes. Taken together, the two operations prevented the loss of more than 7 million euros in unpaid duties and taxes.

The Director General of OLAF, Mr Giovanni Kessler said “It is very good news to hear that in less than a week, our Greek partners were once again able to intercept an international contraband operation of this magnitude. This second seizure shows the importance of international cooperation and the contribution that OLAF can bring to the fight against tobacco smuggling. For single authorities, it is a great challenge to intercept such complex contraband operations run by criminal organisations. I would like to congratulate the Greek authorities for this new success.”

On 6 March, OLAF received information on three containers declared as loaded with crumb rubber, but suspected of containing contraband cigarettes. These containers were shipped from the harbour of Pasir Gudang in Malaysia to Piraeus in Greece. OLAF sent this information to the competent Greek authorities. Preliminary checks carried out by the SDOE revealed that the consignee of the containers did not exist. When the suspect lading was checked upon arrival in the port of Piraeus on 13 and 14 March, the Greek authorities discovered that two of the three containers were in fact loaded with smuggled cigarettes. The same pattern of action had been unveiled in a related case, a week earlier.

Inspecting the containers, the Greek authorities discovered a total of 1 996 boxes of contraband cigarettes. The two containers were loaded with 998 boxes each of “RGD” brand cigarettes, totalling up to 998,000 packages or 19.96 million pieces of cigarettes. Only the third container was loaded with crumb rubber as declared. The investigation continues, with authorities seeking to identify the intended recipient of these cigarettes, whose identity and address on the shipping documents were fake.

Unpaid duties and taxes on these smuggled cigarettes amount to more than EUR 3.5 million in the new case, leading to a prevented loss of more than EUR 7 million in the two operations carried out by the Greek authorities recently.

Given the nearly identical pattern, OLAF and the Greek authorities suspect the same criminal organisation to be behind the two smuggling attempts. In both cases, three containers where shipped from Malaysia to Piraeus, two of which were loaded with contraband cigarettes.

See related “Press release no. 3 Nearly 20 million contraband cigarettes seized in Greece in a major operation targeting international smugglers”

The mission of the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF) is threefold it protects the financial interests of the European Union by investigating fraud, corruption and any other illegal activities it detects and investigates serious matters relating to the discharge of professional duties by members and staff of the EU institutions and bodies that could result in disciplinary or criminal proceedings and it supports the EU institutions, in particular the European Commission, in the development and implementation of anti fraud legislation and policies.

For further details
European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF)
Phone 32 2 295 73 36
E mail olaf media

Bbc news – meps tighten anti-tobacco laws aimed at young smokers

Marlboro red 100s cigarettes – cigarettes

Packs of 10 cigarettes, considered popular among younger smokers, will also be banned.

Fourteen EU states already have 20 as the minimum, four stipulate a minimum of 19, and in the UK and Italy the minimum is 10.

Smaller than normal packs of roll your own tobacco will still be allowed under the new rules.

It was the European Parliament’s first reading of a draft tobacco directive which could become law in 2014. It would then take two more years to become law in each of the 28 EU member states.

There has been intense lobbying of MEPs by the tobacco industry and health campaigners.

The Commission says almost 700,000 Europeans die from smoking related illnesses each year equal to the population of Frankfurt or Palermo. The costs for healthcare in the EU are estimated to be at least 25.3bn euros ( 20.6bn $33.4bn) annually.

Mixed reactions

Conservative and Liberal MEPs welcomed the amendments made to the original proposal from Labour’s Linda McAvan.

Speaking to the BBC, Ms McAvan said she was disappointed that slim cigarettes were not banned.

But cigarette packaging made to look like lipstick or perfume containers attractive to girls will disappear, she noted.

There will now be further negotiations with the Council the grouping of relevant EU ministers. MEPs may manage to avoid a second vote and fast track the legislation so that it is adopted before the May 2014 European elections.

The proposals also include a ban on words like “light”, “mild” and “low tar”, deemed to be misleading, and a ban on oral tobacco called snus although Sweden would retain its exemption.

EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg called the vote “positive”. “I am confident that the revised Directive on Tobacco Products can still be adopted within the mandate of the current Parliament,” he said.

But Carl Schlyter MEP, health spokesman for the Greens, called it “a shameful day for the European Parliament, as a centre right majority, led by the EPP group, has done the bidding of the tobacco industry and voted for weaker rules”.