Customs seizes 500,000 pieces of fake "Marlboro”

At the beginning of September employees of a parcel service company based in northern Lower Austria had a closer look at damaged cardboard boxes: because of foreign cigarettes which were visible in the boxes they then notified the customs office in St. Pölten Krems - Wiener Neustadt. During the customs control of the Operational Customs Supervision 20 cardboard boxes with a content of 250,000 pieces (1,250 cigarette cartons of 200 pieces each) of undeclared and untaxed cigarettes of the brand "Marlboro" were found and seized.

The employees of the parcel service company could remember the men - and their vehicle - who had brought the cartons to the dispatch centre. Thanks to this careful observation and the information provided it was possible to identify a small lorry with an official Polish licence. In the course of a patrol carried out in the area shortly thereafter, the vehicle was found in the car park of a guesthouse in a nearby village. The customs investigators of the St. Pölten Krems - Wiener Neustadt customs office were able to locate both the driver and the front-seat passenger on the premises of the guesthouse. The customs inspection of the small lorry brought to light a further 25 cardboard boxes containing 250,000 pieces (1,250 cigarette cartons of 200 pieces each) of "Marlboro". The cigarettes were seized.

Subsequent investigations also revealed that the smuggled cigarettes most likely originated in Moldova. Samples of the seizures were sent to the brand owner Philip Morris in order to obtain a proof of origin and to determine whether the cigarettes were original or counterfeit. The brand owner's expert opinion showed that the smuggled cigarettes in question were counterfeits from an illegal cigarette production.

A third person, who was also present at the guesthouse, could be connected to the two drivers. During the interrogation the three Romanian citizens provided contradictory information, but rejected any involvement in the offence. However, the analysis of the mobile phone conversations of the three accused, in addition to further results of the investigation, clearly proves their contribution to the offence.

"In total, the customs officers were able to withdraw 500,000 undeclared, untaxed and illegally produced cigarettes from circulation”, says Finance Minister Blümel and added: "The criminal offences in connection with cigarettes and tobacco entail a high loss of taxes and duties. This successful operation alone enabled the customs units to prevent a tax loss of EUR 136,779!”

Since the cardboard boxes were destined to be sent to Northern Ireland and France by parcel service, Austrian customs informed the customs authorities in those countries about the results of the investigation by way of administrative assistance. The public prosecutor at the Korneuburg Regional Court ordered that the three accused be reported to the police while remaining out of prison and the cigarettes and mobile phones be seized.