Criminal network smuggling cigarettes and alcohol thwarted in Poland

06 August 2018
Press Release
Press Release/News

This News/Press release is about Economic Crime

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  • Tobacco Excise fraud
  • 5 arrests in Poland
  • 39 million cigarettes seized

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.

Excise fraud deprives Member States of revenue that would otherwise be used to fund vital public services such as schools, hospitals and infrastructure. A crime enabler or threat financer that facilitates organised crime groups to commit other serious crime, it is also a threat to national security.

Excise Fraud is one of the EMPACT priorities under the 2018-2021 EU policy cycle. Europol’s Analysis Project Smoke is dedicated to investigating the unlawful manufacturing and smuggling of excise goods, particularly tobacco and cigarettes.


EMPACTIn 2010 the European Union set up a four-year Policy Cycle to ensure greater continuity in the fight against serious international and organised crime. In 2017 the Council of the EU decided to continue the EU Policy Cycle for the 2018 - 2021 period. It aims to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. This is achieved by improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of EU Member States, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organisations, including the private sector where relevant. Excise Fraud is one of the priorities for the Policy Cycle.