European commission – olaf – second major seizure of smuggled cigarettes in greece within a week prevents loss of several million euros

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

Tobacco additives

Next Question 7. Do additives make tobacco more attractive?

Additives can make smoke look more attractive for other people as well as the smoker and reduce lingering odours, as well as mask the smell of smoke. They can make it easier to start smoking by making the smoke, cooler, sweeter, and less harsh to the throat. Harshness can be altered by changing the ratio of nicotine to tar, and also by adding flavourings which give the impression a particular cigarette brand is smooth .

It is very difficult to identify the role of individual substances in enhancing attractiveness. There is most information about menthol, used in cigarette brands which are popular in the USA. Menthol reduces harshness and may encourage deeper inhalation of smoke. In the USA a much higher proportion of African Americans than European Americans smoke mentholated cigarettes.

The available data do not allow drawing any conclusion on the overall effect of additives on the use of tobacco products. The prevalence of smoking (i.e. the number of smokers) is stable or in decline in most EU Member States. 2006 figures indicate that 27.5 per cent of adults smoked in the EU 33.2 per cent of men and 21.8 per cent of women roughly the same levels as in 2002. Smoking is more common, on average in Eastern European Member States.

Flavourings may be used to target young people, and there is evidence that younger smokers are more likely to use flavoured cigarettes. However, UK data suggest that brand preferences of child and adult smokers are quite similar. There are also indications in the UK market, which is dominated by domestic brands, that cigarettes marketed as additive free may become popular.