A major international tobacco smuggling ring has been smashed by an operation coordinated by 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).
The criminal gang are reported to have smuggled large quantities of tobacco leafs and stripes from Spain to Portugal, which were then processed to produce both cigarettes and tobacco for roll-your-own cigarettes.
The products were then distributed on the Portuguese black market.
On 24 June, the authrorities swooped and conducted simultaneous raids in both countries that resulted in 59 property searches in Portugal and 4 in Spain.
The raids led to the arrest of 8 suspects, all Spanish and Portuguese nationals aged between 33 and 49 years old as well as the seizure of 11 tonnes of tobacco leaf and fine-cut tobacco, alongside 90, 000 illegally manufactured cigarettes and 186 500 cigarette filters.
The amount of tobacco seized is enough to produce some 11 million cigarettes with an estimated street value of €2,7 million in Portugal.
The criminals used a series of front companies to disguise the importation but were in fact set up “with the sole purpose of committing excise fraud”.
Cutting and processing facilities had been set up in Spain, from where the tobacco was shipped to Portugal where it was stored in different warehouses until it was distributed further.
The customs revenue loss generated by these tobacco products illegally imported from Spain to Portugal is estimated at more than € 2 million.
The investigation continues.