Sanctions and increased border control reduce smuggling in Latvia

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In the four months of this year, 793 customs offenses have been detected on the Latvian border. The number of infringements has decreased because of the imposition of sanctions on the border and increased customs control, Latvian Radio reported May 9.

Deputy Director of the State Revenue Service (VID) Customs Administration Sandra Kārkliņa-Ādmine said that in the four months of this year, cigarettes were the most frequent item caught being smuggled through the Latvian border with Russia and Belarus.

“We've removed 7.7 million units of cigarettes in those four months. The largest volume of cigarettes comes from Belarus and rail transport is dominating at present. For example, 4.7 million cigarettes were hidden in buckets with hydro anthracite. This means that there were cigarettes in each of the buckets and there were hydro anthracites on top. That's what we saw, for example, by analyzing the scanned images. Cigarettes are even sometimes industrially incorporated into some goods, boards, doors, building materials," Kārkliņa-Ādmine said.

According to a Nielsen analytics company study, the volume of illegal cigarettes was 40% of the total market 10 years ago and 15.8% of the total market at the end of last year, historically the lowest.

The head of external relations of the tobacco company Philip Morris Latvia, Juris Stinka, said that the decline in the number of smuggling cigarettes is a result of the work of several state authorities.

"Not only the VID but also the state Border Guard and the police [..] And the increased control that we have on borders now means that it is physically harder to hide and import these goods into Latvia. I want to hope, of course, that gradually people choose more legal goods too. [..] Now more and more people are choosing different alternatives: electronic cigarettes, heated tobacco or nicotine pads. And it is a growing segment not only for consumption but also in the illegal market, and these products are mostly purchased on the Internet, sent by mail, or through courier deliveries. It will be a future problem and a question of how to deal with these trends,” Stinka said.

Alcohol and fuel has been attempted to be smuggled in small quantities, 110 liters of alcohol and 366 liters of fuel, said Kārkliņa-Ādmine from VID. In 10 cases, an undeclared cash export of a total of EUR 270,000 was found. This year 51 investigations into drug trafficking and 85 suspected drug trafficking cases have been launched.

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