November 16, 2010 - Spain's biggest ever operation against counterfeit tobacco has led to the seizure of 90 million fake cigarettes and the arrest of six men. The investigation saw the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) working closely with Spanish Customs to break up one of the largest tobacco rackets in Europe and prevent the loss of 10 million euros in tax revenue.
Spanish Customs launched Operation BALMAN in February 2010 when intelligence about suspicious imports from China was provided by OLAF. Fast and accurate exchanges of information between OLAF and national authorities allowed investigators to track containers of counterfeit cigarettes from China to ports on the east coast of Spain, where they were pushed into the illegal market.
"The excellent work of Spanish Customs has resulted in a victory for European taxpayers and a strong blow against smugglers. It shows that proactive information-sharing between OLAF and national authorities is vital in our battle against the illicit trade in tobacco. We fight fraud best when we fight it together," said OLAF's acting Director-General Nicholas Ilett.
The European Commission has concluded cooperation agreements with four of the world's largest tobacco manufacturers1 in order to tackle this illegal trade. OLAF is also reinforcing its cooperation with national authorities to stamp out an illicit industry that costs European taxpayers an estimated 10 billion euros each year and floods the market with uncontrolled and substandard goods. (European Union (EU) - tobacco firms are contributing funds to the fight against cigarette smuggling..)
European Commission and Philip Morris International sign 12-year Agreement to combat contraband and counterfeit cigarettes
European Commission and Imperial Tobacco sign agreement to combat illicit trade in tobacco
European Commission and British American Tobacco sign agreement to combat illicit trade in tobacco
European Commission and JT International (Japan Tobacco) sign 15-year Agreement to combat contraband and counterfeit cigarettes
Reference: Spain's Biggest Ever Counterfeit Cigarette
Network Dismantled, OLAF, 11/12/2010.