Customs busts own agents in biggest-ever haul of black-market smokes

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The State Revenue Service’s (VID) Customs Police nabbed the largest catch of illegal cigarettes ever this month – amounting to 32 million cigarettes and involving three of its own customs officers and a border guard officer, VID informed the media Wednesday.

Altogether six persons were detained on June 2 on suspicion of smuggling in from Russia 32,760,800 contraband smokes, including the three workers from customs, one from the border guard service and two vehicle drivers. An estimated five million euros would have been kept out of state coffers had the shipment made it to the black market, being the largest-ever busted in a single VID Customs Service raid.

Two cargo trucks documented as traveling empty were pulled over for routine inspection on the Terehova-Ludza highway and found to be holding the huge stash of Russian- and Belarus-excised tobacco brands Premjer, NZ Gold, Fest, Bayron White, Bayron and Kiss.

No further details are being revealed while the criminal investigation continues. The suspects including the state customs and border guard officers are free on their own recognizance but are currently prohibited from performing any of their job-related duties.

A previous arrest of customs and border guard officers happened  following a similar discovery of an illicit shipment of cigarettes and alcohol in April. 

The day the arrest was made the Ministry of Finance released a statement warning the public that trade in contraband cigarettes was a major security concern, being tied to the flow of financing between global organized crime and terrorist networks.

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