- Six million cigarettes and enough tobacco to produce 21 million cigarettes found in an illegal factory in Budapest.
- Hungarian customs officers arrested 20 factory employees and the ringleaders behind the operation.
The Hungarian National Tax and Customs Administration (NTCA, Nemzeti Adó- és Vámhivatal) have uncovered an illegal tobacco factory and identified the members of the criminal group behind the operation. The cigarette factory operated in a large rented warehouse in Budapest, which had been completely rebuilt to cater to the network’s illegal activities. Renovations were extensive, with separate tobacco-cutting, fermenting, filling, and packing places constructed with walls made of fibreboard and brick. The factory employees were forced to live and work in the factory, unable to leave the building as the soundproof, purpose-built rooms were locked by the ringleaders from outside.
Following an alert from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), authorities established that the criminal group – primarily Romanian and Moldavian citizens – sourced their materials from abroad, such as machines, tobacco, filters, cigarette papers and cigarette packs. Some of the material was stored in Hungary and used in the dismantled factory; the rest was sent abroad. Given the international scope of the illicit activity, Europol provided the Hungarian authorities with the necessary analytical support to detect the relevant international links and organised an operational meeting to set out the investigation’s strategy.
Rented warehouse purpose-built for illegal venture
During the investigation at the premises, officers found one assembly line in operation and another under construction. They also discovered apparatus for tobacco cutting, fermentation and cigarette packing. In total, investigators found six million cigarettes and 35 tonnes of fine-cut smoking tobacco – enough for another 21 million cigarettes – in the factory. A further 300kg of tobacco powder was also found during the operation (1kg of tobacco powder can make around 3 million cigarettes).
Investigators were able to uncover 139 pallets of cardboard used for packs of cigarettes, 76 pallets of filters, 169 pallets of cigarette papers, 43 pallets of foil, 600 litres of liquid glue, 30 pallets of foil paper rolls, and accessories, production equipment and a cigarette rolling machine.