Nearly 410 million illegal cigarettes seized in Belgium in 2020.
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Nearly 410 million illegal cigarettes seized in Belgium in 2020.

Credit: Belga

Nearly 410 million illegal cigarettes were seized in Belgium in 2020 – twice as many as the previous year, various media report based on Customs data.

A total of 409.9 million illicit cigarettes were seized, up from 196.7 million in 2019 (an increase of 108%).

In addition, customs seized 49 tons of shisha tobacco (against 4.1 tons in 2018) and 73 tons of tobacco.

Furthermore, 18 sites producing counterfeit tobacco/cigarettes were dismantled, compared to 14 in 2019.

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In 2020, five illegal cigarette factories were dismantled in Belgium (including one in Brussels and one in Hainaut), four illegal shisha tobacco factories (including two in Brussels), one tobacco cutting site, two cigarette packaging sites (in Limburg) and six storage sites (including one in Brussels). Also in 2020, 32 people directly linked to illicit production on Belgian soil were arrested.

This high traffic in Belgium is “a problem that concerns the entire European Union,” according to Florence Angelici, spokeswoman of the FPS Finance.

A 2019 KPMG study showed that “the main destinations of contraband cigarettes are the United Kingdom (19.3% of cigarettes consumed in this country are contraband) and France (14.1%),” she said.

“The high excise rates in these two countries explain, in part, the attractiveness of these markets to smugglers. The presence of production sites on Belgian soil can be explained by the proximity of these two destination markets.”

The Brussels Times