Balkan pilgrimage used to smuggle illicit cigarettes

Balkan pilgrimage used to smuggle illicit cigarettes
Photo: DPA
Catholic travellers found out they were carrying much more than the Holy Spirit back from a pilgrimage in southeastern Europe on Monday evening, when customs officers in Bavaria discovered their tour buses were loaded with 50,000 smuggled cigarettes.

The 50 pilgrims, who were reported by customs officers to have been “calm and helpful” during the search, were returning from a well-known pilgrimage site in the Balkans to their homes in northern Germany, when their bus was stopped on A8 motorway.

The customs officers searched the luggage hold and became suspicious when no one claimed five bags that turned out to hold 250 cartons of cigarettes. The authorities suspect the drivers of smuggling the contraband, but they denied any wrongdoing and insisted they had no idea the illicit smokes were on board.

Charges of tax evasion were nonetheless filed against the drivers before the Catholic pilgrims were allowed to continue on their journey home.

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