Europol shuts down massive illegal cigarette factory in Germany

Europol shuts down massive illegal cigarette factory in Germany
Credit: HM Revenue & Customs / Flickr

One of Germany's biggest illegal cigarette factories, equipped to produce 40 million cigarettes per month, was shut down following a raid organised by Europol.

On Wednesday, Europol reported the arrest of 12 Ukrainian and Polish nationals between the ages of 28 and 59 who worked in a German factory in Kranenburg, close to the Dutch border.

The raid took place on 18 August and involved 200 officers. The police confiscated 11 million cigarettes.

Most cigarettes are believed to have been destined for the UK, where “the retail value of cigarettes is much higher than in Germany”.

Europol is currently investigating whether the factory group can be linked to similar organisations in other European countries.

The raid was part of international Operation LUPA, led by the German Customs Investigation Office of Essen/Branch Münster. The German Public Prosecutor’s Office of Kleve oversaw the operation in cooperation with Europol and the Polish Police Centre Bureau of Investigation.

Europol tweeted that the arrests meant an end to “a weekly tax loss to the German state near to €1.5 million”.

According to Europol, the illegal factory was “undoubtedly one of the largest” to have been shut down in Germany. Seeing that it had been operating since 2016, the total loss of tax revenue for the German state likely amounts to “several hundreds of millions of euros”.

According to the European Fraud Office, it is hard to estimate the total size of the illegal tobacco industry in the EU. Following the most recent numbers, between 2013 and 2018, 2 billion illegally produced cigarettes were confiscated. This amount comes down to a production rate of 38 packs per minute.

In total, the industry costs the EU and its Member States up to €10 billion in tax revenues per year.

Amée Zoutberg

The Brussels Times

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