The Border Police is at the forefront of the efforts to combat cigarette smuggling, which is a permanent priority for our institution. According to the Novel Research study, the black market for cigarettes fell by 8.7% in 2021, compared to 9.4% in 2020. At the same time, in November 2021 it reached even 7.4% of total consumption, being the lowest level recorded in the last 15 years.
In the first 11 months of 2021, border guards - independently or in collaboration with customs inspectors or representatives of other competent institutions - seized approximately 3.8 million packs of cigarettes, worth 48.7 million lei.
Also, 62,605 kg of tobacco and 764.7 kg of hookah tobacco were discovered during the reference period.
6 organized groups were identified and dismantled for the crime of cigarette smuggling, in which 52 people were identified.
From the recorded cases, it was found that the traffickers came mainly from Bulgaria, China, Vietnam, Egypt, Syria, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine and Romania etc.
This year too, the border with Ukraine continues to be the most affected by illicit trafficking in tobacco products, with catches recorded at this border accounting for over 50% of total discoveries, but significant cases have been recorded in other parts of the country.
The main mode of operation identified at the borders with Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova remains the introduction of cigarettes across the "green border", in packages, transported by carriers to the places of storage or to the means of transport. Cars or minibuses registered in other states, with false license plates or even without license plates, are used for transportation. They are also exploiting the capabilities of off-road vehicles, which can travel on detours, forest roads or undeveloped roads, thus trying to bypass the patrol areas of the Border Police. The routes used for transport are provided by criminal groups with observers and forerunners. Another mode of operation is the use of drones, a mode of operation that allows cross-border transport over long distances and in a relatively short time.
The routes used for transport are provided by criminal groups with observers and forerunners. Another mode of operation is the use of drones, a mode of operation that allows cross-border transport over long distances and in a relatively short time.
At the level of border crossing points on these border segments (Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova) there is a tendency to introduce hidden cigarettes in different spaces of means of transport, in the components of means of transport, on the body or personal luggage of passengers.
At the borders with Bulgaria and Serbia, cigarettes are generally discovered through border crossing points or on communications, being trafficked by the "cover/lid" method or hidden in specially arranged spaces in the cargo compartments of motor vehicles.
Maintaining the black market below the EU average by combating cigarette smuggling and tax evasion, as well as by annihilating networks of cigarette traffickers can only be maintained if we continue to work with the competent authorities in the future: internal, external, as well as with private companies.
In 2021, the collaboration with the representatives of the manufacturing companies materialized through a permanent exchange of information, useful for preventing and combating this phenomenon, but also through the support given to our institution by donating necessary equipment for state border surveillance and control, in order to streamline actions cigarette smuggling.
Thus, 250 mobile surveillance cameras with motion sensors such as hunting cameras were donated, which were installed in disguise, in the directions identified based on risk analyzes at the level of the Border Police sectors located at the external border of the European Union. They have the advantage of effective surveillance by covering a much larger area, and significantly increase response time by strategically planning patrols where they can intervene quickly.
Of the significant cases recorded since the beginning of the year to date, we recall the following:
Over 80,000 packs of cigarettes, worth about one million lei, confiscated at the northern border of Romania
On 14.04.2021, around 13.00, the border guards from the Border Police Sector Siret – T.I.B.P. Sighetu Marmatiei noticed a Mercedes Benz Sprinter minibus, registered in Great Britain, about 3 km from the border line, moving from the state border to Costişa, Suceava County.
Immediately, our colleagues acted to intercept and stop the vehicle in question, and following specific activities, the car was found abandoned in the yard of a building in Costişa, inside which several packages of cigarettes were observed.
Following the findings, the minibus and cigarettes were transported to the border police headquarters, where the inventory resulted in 80,960 packs of cigarettes, of various brands, from Duty Free and Belarus.
The entire amount of cigarettes, amounting to 947,232 lei, was seized for confiscation, and the minibus registered in Great Britain, amounting to 25,000 lei, was confiscated in order to continue the investigations.
In this case, investigations were carried out under the aspect of committing the crime of smuggling, as well as for documenting the entire criminal activity under the direct supervision of the case prosecutor from the Prosecutor's Office attached to the Rădăuți Court, and finally the necessary legal measures will be taken.
Over 7,000 packs of cigarettes and 434 kg of tobacco confiscated at the northern border
On June 7, around 10.00, at the Petea Border Crossing Point, Satu Mare County, a Romanian citizen, aged 27, from Maramureş County, showed up to carry out the control formalities specific to leaving Romania. He was driving a van registered in Romania.
Acting on the basis of a risk analysis, the border guards carried out a thorough check on the vehicle. The driver stated that he was carrying glass cups and a sweetener, but during our checks our colleagues found that, in fact, the packages contained cigarettes from outside the EU. In one of the pallets, apparently loaded with handmade glasses, packs of cigarettes were found in 14 packages. Also in the other two boxes, which according to the documents should have contained a sweetener, were bags of hookah tobacco.
The inventory resulted in a quantity of 7,300 packs of cigarettes, worth 85,410 lei and 434 kg of tobacco for hookah, worth 43,400 lei. The goods were seized for further investigation, and the person in question is being investigated for smuggling.
The entire quantity of cigarettes was seized and confiscated for the purpose of committing the crime of smuggling.
About 150,000 packs of cigarettes, found hidden in metal boxes in a truck, at BCP Giurgiu
On 31.05.2021, the border police officers from the Giurgiu Border Crossing Point discovered and confiscated 149,990 packs of cigarettes, which were hidden in a road complex, in metal boxes hidden in gypsum pallets. The driver of the truck was detained for 24 hours and is being investigated for the crime of smuggling.
Giurgiu border police officers made unavailable the entire quantity of cigarettes, worth 2,999,800 lei, as well as the 15 pallets with gypsum transported by the driver, in order to continue the investigations.
A detention order has been issued for the Romanian citizen for 24 hours, and the border police are investigating the crime of "smuggling", under the coordination of the case prosecutor from the Prosecutor's Office attached to the Giurgiu Court.
Cigarettes worth over 119,000 lei confiscated on the border with Hungary
On 16.11.2021, around 13.00, at the Vărșand Border Crossing Point, Arad County, a 39-year-old Bulgarian citizen showed up at the exit of the country, behind the wheel of a truck registered in Bulgaria.
Following the control carried out on the means of transport, the border guards discovered, hidden in the compartment intended for the goods in a specially arranged place, several packs of cigarettes.
The man said he intended to sell cigarettes in the UK for a profit.
The entire quantity of goods, 5,175 packs of cigarettes, amounting to 119,025 lei, was seized for confiscation, and in this case investigations were carried out for the crime of possession outside the tax warehouse or sale of excisable products subject to marking, without being improperly marked or marked or false markings above the limit provided by law, following that at the end of the case the required legal measures will be ordered.