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Counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes cost EU member states €10 billion in lost tax revenue last year

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counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes cost EU member states €10 billion

The EU illicit trade in black market cigarettes cost member state governments a total of €10 billion ($11.23 billion) in lost tax revenues in 2018, according to a new report from professional services firm KPMG.

That figure was up €369 million on 2017, despite the total number of counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes consumed in EU nations falling 1.1 billion to 43.6 billion.

Commissioned by US tobacco giant Philip Morris International, the independent study revealed that the EU market for smuggled and counterfeit traditional smoking products was equivalent in size to total legal cigarette sales in the United Kingdom, Austria and Denmark combined last year.

In total, counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes in the EU were estimated to account for 8.6% of all consumption across the 28-nation bloc in 2018.

KPMG found that while the circulation of smuggled, illicit whites and other illicit tobacco product volumes declined in 2018, counterfeit was the only category to show year-on-year volume growth.

The number of fake cigarettes in circulation across the EU rocketed by 33% to 5.5 billion in 2018, which was the highest level recorded since KPMG first conducted the study back in 2006.

Half of the nations included in the study witnessed an increase in the consumption of fake cigarettes last year, with the largest volumes being reported in Greece (1.5 billion) and the UK (0.9 billion).

Commenting on KPMG’s findings, Alvise Giustiniani, PMI Vice President of Illicit Trade Prevention, said: “Beyond damaging government revenues, harming legitimate businesses—including our own—and fuelling crime in local communities, the availability of cheap, unregulated cigarettes on the black market undermines efforts to reduce smoking prevalence and prevent youth from smoking.

“For PMI to have impact in our drive to unsmoke the world, we must sustain our combined efforts to eliminate illicit cigarette trade, while ensuring responsible access to better alternatives for the men and women who would otherwise continue to smoke.”

Last month, Europol announced that it had coordinated an operation involving law enforcement agencies from a number of EU members states that resulted in the break-up of a gang that is thought to have made some €680 million from cigarette trafficking and a range of other illegal activities.

The organised criminal network behind the conspiracy is said to have made the majority of its profits through the smuggling of cigarettes and drugs to the UK, before shipping cash to Poland, where it was laundered in currency exchange offices and invested in property in Spain and other countries.

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Spanish police and Europol help smash counterfeit currency networks in Madrid and Bogota

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counterfeit currency networks in Madrid and Bogota

Police in Spain have arrested eight people in a Europol-backed operation targeting a counterfeit currency network that investigators believe was responsible for the distribution of large quantities of bogus €50 ($56) banknotes in multiple locations across the country.

The suspects, the majority of whom are said to have been Senegalese nationals, were detained during raids on four properties in Madrid after law enforcement officers intercepted fake bills with a face value of €15,000 in a package addressed to the leader of the network.

Police said the contents of the package, which had arrived in Spain from Italy, was intended to be distributed primarily in Madrid and Barcelona, ​​where members of the organisation employed mules to inject the counterfeit currency into local economies via shops and other businesses.

The investigation that led to the arrest of the suspects was launched back in March when Spanish police learned that a Senegalese national was selling fake banknotes as well as dealing heroin, cocaine and cannabis.

Surveillance of the man led investigators to members of the network, who were found to have been making regular trips to Italy to arrange shipments of the fake banknotes they sold.

After realising the international nature of the conspiracy, police in Spain approached Europol and requested assistance with their investigation into the network’s activities.

In statement, Europol said: “Over 60 police officers were involved in the action day [that led to the suspects’ arrests].

“Europol deployed a mobile office to Madrid, allowing for the real-time crosschecking of the information against the agency’s databases.”

In a separate operation, Spanish police and their counterparts in Colombia have dismantled a clandestine counterfeit euro and US dollar banknote printing press in Bogota.

The investigation resulted in the arrest of two people and the seizure of fakes banknotes with a face value of $20,000, electronic devices, a printer, inks, paper and various other tools used during the counterfeiting process.

Colombian police requested technical and operational support from Spanish investigators and Europol once they had established the network was involved in the production of fake euro notes.

Back in April, police in Spain revealed they had broken up an organised crime gang behind a counterfeit note printing operation that made €7,500 every month.

Operation Malla resulted in the arrest of four people and the seizure of counterfeit currency worth €15,500 during a raid on a property in Tenerife that was used as a base by the gang behind the fake banknote plot.

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Britain’s ‘worst-ever’ paedophile found stabbed to death in his jail cell

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Britain’s ‘worst-ever’ paedophile found stabbed to death

A man routinely described as one of the UK’s worst-ever paedophiles has been stabbed to death in his jail cell, a spokesperson from the England and Wales Prison Service has confirmed.

Richard Huckle, 33, is said to have been killed by a fellow inmate using a “makeshift blade” more than three years after he was handed 22 life sentences for raping and sexually assaulting as many as 200 children from mainly disadvantaged communities in Southeast Asia while presenting himself as a Christian doing voluntary work in the region.

A fellow prisoner at HMP Full Sutton, which houses some of the UK’s most violent and dangerous inmates, is reported to have been isolated from other prisoners after Huckle’s blood-stained corpse was discovered slumped lifeless in his cell.

“HMP Full Sutton prisoner Richard Huckle died on 13 October,” a Prison Service spokesperson said.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further while a police investigation is ongoing.”

Police are now preparing to launch a murder investigation.

“Humberside Police are working closely with the Prison Service to investigate the death of an inmate and at this time we are treating the death as suspicious,” a force spokesperson said.

Jailing Huckle in June 2016, Judge Peter Rook QC ordered that he must serve a minimum term of 25 years to reflect “public abhorrence” at his “campaign of rape”, describing a “paedophile manual” Huckle wrote as a “truly evil document”.

Rook told Huckle it was “very rare indeed” that a judge had to sentence sexual offending by one person on such a scale.

During his trial at the Old Bailey in London, the court was told how police investigating Huckle discovered more than 20,000 indecent pictures and videos of his assaults on his computer.

Huckle is said to have attempted to monetise his abuse activity by charging fellow paedophiles for access to his catalogue of abuse material, which investigators discovered after he was arrested when returning to the UK in 2014 following a tip-off from Australian authorities.

After his arrest, investigators from the UK’s National Crime Agency described the scale of Huckle’s offending as “unprecedented and exceptional”.

Responding to concern that Malaysia failed to act on a tip-off about Huckle’s activities in 2014, Khalid Abu Bakar, the country’s police chief, said British detectives had been unable to provide their counterparts in Malaysia with enough information to allow them to investigate the prolific paedophile.

“That was our main obstacle when dealing with European countries because, by law, they are unable to cooperate with us because we carry out capital punishment,” Reuters quoted Khalid as saying.

“Now that this case is over, I hope that the British authorities will no longer hold back any information from us.”

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Police in Bolivia arrest Lima Lobo family drugs clan boss in Interpol-supported operation

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police in Bolivia arrest Lima Lobo family drugs clan boss

An Interpol-backed operation carried out by law enforcement authorities in Bolivia has resulted in the arrest of a major drug baron wanted by police in Brazil on an international warrant.

Investigators in the South American country detained Bolivian national Jesus Einar Lima Lobo Dorado, 52, at the end of last month in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra following a global effort to secure his capture.

Lima Lobo Dorado, who was being hunted internationally by Brazil after the issuing of an Interpol Red Notice, is said to be one of the senior leaders of the Lima Lobo family clan, which is known to have links with drug cartels in Colombia as well as in Brazil.

The Lima Lobo clan, which is thought to have been operating since the 1990s, is suspected of trafficking large quantities of drugs internationally across several countries in the Amazonian region via a network of private aircraft flown by members who hold pilot licenses.

The suspect was targeted by Interpol’s Fugitive Investigative Support unit after a meeting in Buenos Aires last year as part of its activities within Project EL PAcCTO (Europe-Latin America Assistance Programme against Transnational Organised Crime).

Commenting on the arrest, Interpol chief Jürgen Stock said: “Helping member countries bring fugitives to justice is at the heart of what Interpol is and does.

“International police cooperation is crucial because for criminals, there are no borders.”

“Without the Red Notice and our close collaboration with Bolivia and Brazil through EL PAcCTO, this fugitive would likely still be at large.”

Presenting Lima Lobo Dorado at a press conference after his arrest, police in Bolivia said his apprehension would help them dismantle an organised criminal network that has been trafficking drugs across South America for several generations of the family that runs it.

Lima Lobo Dorado was wanted by Brazilian authorities for smuggling 10kgs of cocaine into the country.

If found guilty, he could face 20 years behind bars.

As well as using private planes to traffic wholesale amounts of illegal drugs across South America, members of the Lima Lobo clan also operated across land and sea routes.

Bolivian police said they have now issued arrest warrants for other members of the clan, including Edward Lima Lobo, Oscar Eduardo Lima Lobo, Edwin Douglas Lima Lobo and Carmen Ibis Lima Lobo.

Interpol said its support of the EL PAcCTO project falls within an EU-funded three-year initiative intended to create a permanent mechanism for fugitive investigations across Latin America involving Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Peru.

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