A CRIMINAL gang exporting illegal tobacco and cigarettes from Spain to Portugal has been thwarted by Europol and a cross-border team of customs and Guardia officials from both countries.
After 59 simultaneous searches on June 24, eight smugglers were arrested – all of Portugese and Spanish nationality.
Huge quantities of tobacco leaf were transported with the intention of producing both illegal cigarettes and rolling tobacco to be sold on the Portuguese black market.
Some 11 tonnes of tobacco leaf and fine-cut tobacco was seized, along with 90,000 manufactured cigarettes and 186,500 filters.
Sources say the amount of tobacco seized was enough to produce 11 million cigarettes, worth €2.7 million.
The gang imported the tobacco via several companies established with the sole purpose of smuggling and committing excise fraud.
Cutting and processing facilities had been set up in Spain, from where the tobacco was shipped to Portugal and placed into a network of warehouses to be distributed further.
The tax revenue loss generated by the operation is estimated at more than € 2 million.
Agencies involved were Europol, the Portuguese Republican National Guard (Guardia Nacional Republicana) and the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) with the cooperation of the Spanish Customs Surveillance Service (Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera).