The Gdańsk Bureau of the Polish Central Bureau of Investigation (Centralne Biuro Śledcze, CBŚP), together with the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Gdańsk and with the support of Europol arrested five suspects and seized over 39 million cigarettes.
Police officers from the CBŚP conducted since 2015 an investigation supervised by the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Gdańsk. The case concerns an international criminal group dealing with the illegal trade in cigarettes. The arrestees were charged for being members of an organised criminal group by the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Gdańsk.
Since 2015, Polish authorities have been sharing their intelligence from this case with British and Italian law enforcement agencies, and with Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency. As a result of this intensive cooperation the transport of 14 million cigarettes that were intended for the illegal market was stopped in the town of Caserta in Italy in 2015. Following this, over 13 million cigarettes of various brands were seized in Padua and a further 12 million in Trieste (both in Italy).
Cigarettes are subject to excise duty upon production in, or on import to, the EU and organised crime groups use various modi operandi to avoid excise duties and generate significant profits by selling both genuine and counterfeit excise goods at lower prices than their licit equivalents.
Excise tax fraud is driven by legislative differences and varying excise tax rates applied by different Member States.
The main areas of excise fraud in Europe include:
the smuggling or illegal importation of excise goods
the illegal manufacture of excise goods
diversion, which involves diverting goods without paying excise duty.