Illegal cigarette factory busted, seven arrested

The State Revenue Service's Customs Police have busted a major counterfeit cigarette production facility in Babite Region, the Revenue Service's Director General Ilze Cirule told a press conference May 25.

It is the first time in the Baltic states that the authorities have liquidated such a large-scale underground cigarette plant, said Cirule, with previous victories mainly centering on smuggling efforts rather than production.

"We are investigating a crime ring that was mostly making cigarettes for the Scandinavian market, causing major losses to Latvian and other countries' budgets," said Cirule.

The illegal production facility was located in a building that had been built without construction authorities' permission. Inside the building there was the production facility, a warehouse, and rooms for the workers. There was a surveillance system installed to warn those inside if strangers were near, and a back door so workers could escape should the police come. The Customs Police were able to sneak up on the workers and catch them in the act of making counterfeit cigarettes.

The police found equipment that could make up to 4,000 cigarettes per minute, packaging equipment, and a power generator.

The police also found a large quantity of GOAL cigarettes, approximately four tons of tobacco - enough to make at least 4 million cigarettes, and materials for cigarette packaging.

The Customs Police detained seven persons in total.

The plant mostly operated during night-time hours and on weekends. Operations were halted at the slightest suspicion of trouble.

The Customs Police continue work to apprehend the remaining members of the group that ran the plant, said the Customs Police Administration's Chief Kaspars Podins.

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