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Cops losing tobacco smuggling battle

The Local · 19 Jul 2011, 11:57

Published: 19 Jul 2011 11:57 GMT+02:00

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Although officials and cigarette companies have invested millions of euros to fight the illegal trade, up to 22 billion illegally untaxed cigarettes – 400 million in Berlin alone – were smoked last year, the German Cigarette Association (ODP) and customs authorities told Die Welt newspaper on Tuesday.

Roughly 40 percent of all cigarettes smoked in the country go untaxed although the number skyrockets to 60 percent near the Polish border, according to paper.

Smugglers have become so brazen in recent years that they’re selling their own special cigarette brands imported from countries like Russia or Moldova, none of which can be sold legally.

Among the best known is Jin Ling, which is produced exclusively for smuggling to Western Europe and has become one of the best-selling brands in Germany. A box with ten cigarette cartons goes for €22, giving sellers a more than 1,000 percent profit on boxes that can be bought wholesale for €2, according to Die Welt.

“It’s more lucrative than hashish,” a security investigator for a legitimate German cigarette firm, told the newspaper.

Much smuggled tobacco is of inferior quality and is said to be sometimes infused with poisonous chemicals making them even more toxic than the legitimate stuff, but this does not seem to stop consumers from seeking it out.

The problem appears to be getting more complex as new smoking trends catch on and their devotees look for cheap tobacco. In March, police in North Rhine-Westphalia and colleagues in Sweden broke up an illegal operation, confiscating 620 kilograms of counterfeit water pipe tobacco and arresting nine people.

Among the factors driving tobacco smuggling is the opening of European borders, which makes it much easier to import illegal smokes. Huge Vietnamese gangs have also built up a massive criminal network, which seems almost impossible to slow down. Some observers suggest that rising cigarette taxes may also be driving people to purchase cheaper tobacco from smugglers.

Story continues below…

The Local/DAPD/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

16:17 July 19, 2011 by jmclewis
lower the tax get the mafia out of business.
18:24 July 19, 2011 by Englishted
I always though under E.U. law (they who must be obeyed).

That in a "free" market if tax was payed in one country then it was o.k. to bring it into another country ,this rule applies to nearly everything but fags and drink.

I am going to the U.K. next week the customs (free-trade) will or could search my car fine, if it were for drugs,guns,etc but it will be for smokes and booze.

I can only take in 400 fags for my own use because they are cheaper on mainland Europe ,would they stop me taking 600 out of the U.K. to Europe? .

If Germany wants to stop the trade lower the price ,simply cut the need .
18:58 July 19, 2011 by DinhoPilot
Good business idea... ^^ And I don't smoke.

Instead of living of crappy 400 euro jobs, people rather drive to Poland and make cash selling cheap cigarettes.
21:19 July 19, 2011 by Bushdiver
Some observers suggest that rising cigarette taxes may also be driving people to purchase cheaper tobacco from smugglers. Duh! Do you really think so?
23:35 July 19, 2011 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
I don't know how much of a moron you have to be to understand that higher sin taxes === higher evasion.
01:15 July 20, 2011 by DOZ
Wow, Germany has Reserves as well.
10:34 July 20, 2011 by moistvelvet
It's not really costing the government anything is it, it is just money they will not be getting. But I suppose when they assume X amount of the annual budget will come from smoke tax then I can see why Germany makes no real attempt to enforce the smoking bans in pubs. When enough people die of smoke related cancers and the costs become too much then they might follow the UK and do something about it.
00:33 July 21, 2011 by willowsdad
But that's just it, moistvelvet: smoker-friendly Germany has a longer life expectancy than the staunchly antismoking US (some parts, anyway) and UK. And the UK smoking ban has not reduced smoking; it's merely brought it into homes, where people can socialize as they choose.
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