The trafficking with smuggled cigarettes and other consumer / excisable goods is one of the main actions of crime at the Romanian borders, a phenomenon which has spread at the level of entire country, as it results from the analysis of the cross-border crime phenomena recorded at the border between Romania and neighbouring countries.
Thus, in the first two months of 2017, the border guards confiscated 298.000 packets of cigarettes, amounting to approximately 2.7 million lei, 21 kg of tobacco and 19 organized groups were identified and dismantled, out of which 90 persons were identified (according to Law 39/2003) in order to commit cigarette smuggling.
It was ascertained that the traffickers were originating preponderantly from Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Germany, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Latvia, Hungary, Turkey and Romania.
The most trafficked cigarette brands were Marble, Ashima, Plugarul, L&M, Jin Ling and Marlboro.
In 2016, the border guards confiscated 4.5 million packets of cigarettes amounting to approximately 39.7 million lei, approximately 221 kg of tobacco and 47 organized groups were identified and dismantled (according to Law 39/2003) for committing cigarette smuggling, out of which 304 persons were identified.
In most of the cases, the smuggled cigarettes were detected while they were crossed over the border, but also in the border crossing points, hidden in transportation means and on the communications in the proximity of the border. The cigarettes are purchased without legal documents, with the intention of being traded on the markets inside the country.
Out of the cases recorded at the level of the Romanian Border Police, several modus operandi used by the smugglers were ascertained. Out of these, the main are the following:
- Crossing the demarcation line through the places where the relief is not easy accessible for the vehicles of the Border Police;
- Concealing the cigarettes in old, modified vehicles or in hidden places in order to limit the loss in case of confiscation;
- Using the containers and services of certain transportation means in order to introduce and transport the smuggled cigarettes on the Romanian territory.
As regards the practical methods used by the traffickers in order to cross the cigarettes over the border, we mention the following:
- ‘lid’ method, it means the concealment of the cigarette packets among other types of merchandise – especially with low taxes rates – transited legally through the border crossing points;
- ‘soundproofing’ of the vehicles with cigarettes, i.e. hiding the packets in different component parts of the vehicles (tires, longerons, doors etc.) or using double walls;
- ‘cigarette concealment’ in clothing or attached to the body, in the packages of other food products or in double-bottom bags;
- ‘cable’ method, used in the river border area, which means the crossing of the cigarette master case on a cable placed on both shores of the river;
- transiting the mountain border with horse harness, taking advantage of the mountainous and not easy accessible relief; this aspect makes difficult the control of routes;
- using flying devices – motor hang glider/glider/drone – which are modified in order to transport cigarette master cases over the border.
As regards the used routes, it was ascertained that most of the attempts to introduce the cigarettes in Romania are recorded at the borders in North, East and South-West.
- At the Northern border (Maramureş, Suceava, Satu Mare counties) the cigarettes originating from Ukraine are predominant, the smugglers are organized in real criminal groups, with branches abroad, at the border and inside the country. They try to cross the cigarette packets (master cases) over the ‘green’ border, especially at night. In this area, almost daily, the border guards detect persons attempting to cross the border with smuggled cigarettes, and often they have to use their weapons to detain them according to the provisions of the law, due to the fact that the smugglers do not observe de legal summons.
- At the Eastern border (Galaţi, Vaslui, Iaşi, Botoşani counties) the cigarettes originating from Republic of Moldova (low quality cigarettes – Plai, Doina, Plugarul, MT) are predominant; their introduction in the country was made through the border crossing points, either in large quantities, in transportation means especially modified, or in small quantities – within the customs ceilings – by natural persons.
- In the counties from the South-West (Caraş-Severin, Mehedinţi, Timiş counties), in general, medium and high quality cigarettes are detected, purchased from duty-free shops and transported over the border, in small quantities by natural persons.
The complexity of this cross-border criminal phenomenon requires, besides taking organizational, institutional, acting and logistic measures, also the enhancement of collaboration of all the institutions with responsibilities in ensuring public order and efficient countering of criminal phenomenon, internally.
Romanian Border Police is acting in an integrated system together with other structures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as with other state institutions with duties in the fiscal field, in order to counter smuggling, counterfeiting and illegal trade with tobacco products.
Also, having in view that, in general, the smuggled cigarettes are originating from neighbouring countries, the enhancement of collaboration relations with the neighbouring border authorities, as well as with the similar institutions in other states, may lead to obtaining better results in countering this phenomenon, the aim is a common one, i.e. to ensure the security and safety of the citizen at the level of the Community.
At the same time, the citizens have an important role in countering this phenomenon, and can assist the state authorities by noticing the criminal activities in our competence area. The Border Police places at the disposal of the citizen a telephone number: 021.9590, where any person can inform on such actions.
Also, the citizens have the option to refuse the purchase of such products on the black market. By buying untaxed cigarettes, besides that this fact ‘supplies’ the underground economy, these persons are jeopardizing their health because in many cases the cigarettes were counterfeited or unfit for consumption.
Bearing in mind the prejudices caused to the state budget, the Romanian Border Police will continue to undertake, together with the other competent authorities, firm measures in all the competence areas, in order to detect and sanction the persons involved in the illegal trafficking with consumer goods and excisable products, as well as to confiscate the trafficked merchandise.