Belgium is a hotspot for cigarette traffickers

Belgium is a hotspot for cigarette traffickers
Credit: Belga / Dries Luyten

Belgium has become a key logistics hub for cigarette traffickers looking to distribute illicit tobacco products around Europe, figures reported in Le Soir.

A total of 75 production sites were dismantled in Europe in 2022. In Belgium, customs forces dismantled four clandestine factories, though this is less than in 2021 when government investigators closed nine locations.

With 32 plants closed, Poland remains at the top of the European ranking. Next is Spain with seven and then Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands (which all had four sites closed down). Nearly 350 million cigarettes were seized in total.

In Belgium, 5% of cigarettes smoked go untaxed. The country is not a sales hub for cigarette traffickers but is key in logistics due to its geographical position: truckloads of counterfeit cigarettes can easily be delivered to France and the United Kingdom, where the legal price of cigarettes is much greater. The proximity of large-scale ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp also plays a role.

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Millions of cigarettes are produced each year in Belgian clandestine factories. Just last month 20.8 million cigarettes were seized, which represented €8.5 million in evaded taxes.

In recent years the illicit production of cigarettes has expanded and become more professional. A spokesperson from the Belgian FPS Finance explained that it can sometimes be difficult for investigators to tell apart the illegal factories from the legal ones.

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