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Big Haul: Greek Cops Seize 60 Million Contraband Cigarettes in Piraeus

December 24, 2021

ATHENS – The seemingly endless attempt to keep smuggled cigarettes out of Greece has resulted in customs officials conficating more than 60 million found hidden in six containers at the port of Piraeus.

The cargo came from China, said Kathiermini, with Piraeus the final destination. The port is run by the Chinese management company COSCO and has become a major hub in the European Union.

According to the shipping documents, the containers were carrying wooden cutlery while the companies that appeared to be importing them are based in Bulgaria and were just set up, the report said.

Greek authorities discovered 40 million cigarettes in the first four containers that arrived at Piraeus, while two more from the same shipment were unloaded in Trieste, Italy, and were seized in cooperation with the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog, OLAF. A seventh container was expected at the port.

The packages are under the name Golden, which are traded only on the black market to avoid taxes and sold cheap, smuggled cigarettes sometimes even openly hawked on the streets of Athens in packages or individual butts.

The investigation started after the Coordination Business Center (SEC) received a tip, according to which four containers of smuggled cigarettes had arrived at the port, the paper said.

In May, thanks to a tip from OLAF, Greek authorities seized a container with 9,650,000 cigarettes at the port as smugglers had tried to disguise the shipment as suitcases and also came from China, headed for Slovakia.

Initial information about the shipment was supplied to OLAF by the Chinese Anti-Smuggling Bureau, the paper said. COSCO is trying to make Piraeus an even more important link to the rest of the EU.

In December, 2020, police said they found a haul of 92 million cigarettes, more than 112 kilos (247 pounds) of processed and unprocessed tobacco and 75 million cigarette pack labels.

Greek police said they had cracked one of the country’s leading tobacco smuggling organisations, raiding a factory capable of producing more than a billion cigarettes a year.

Nearly 40 people were arrested during the operation in over 20 locations across the capital and near Athens and a fleet of over 40 trucks, haulers and trailer trucks was also seized, most of them with Bulgarian number plates.

Lost tax revenue from the activities of the network, which was active since 2016, are estimated at around 20 million euros ($24 million), the police told Agence France-Presse (AFP.)

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