Border guards, customs official held as part of smuggling ring

Eight Latvian border guards and one customs official have been detained a part of an investigation into international smuggling rings, with two of the border guards were arrested, the State Border Guard reported on March 11.

The State Border Guard in 2015 and 2016 busted operations of several transnational gangs that transported stolen luxury class cars and cars with forged number plates from the EU to Russia.

The criminal gangs also smuggled tobacco products from Russia to Lithuania and Poland, hiding them in cars. To ensure safe crossing of the borders, the members of the criminal gang established what were referred to as "close contacts" with several border guards - in other words, they are believed to have been in on the action. 

In 2015 and in January 2015 ten criminal procedures were launched on illegal production, sale, distribution, forgery and destruction of transport vehicle registration plates, as well as on bribe taking, bribe giving and contraband.

In January and February this year two individuals, eight border guards and one customs official were detained. One individual and two border guards were arrested, and restrictive measures not involving custody were imposed on other people. Four border guards tendered their resignation after their detention.

The revelations come at a particularly unfortunate time with Latvia attempting to reinforce its Eastern border and persuade the European Union that greater investment in border infrastructure is required due to the refugee crisis.

Adding extra embarassment, at the time the announcement of the alleged corruption was announced, the State Border Guard was hosting a meeting in Riga of border guards from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Sweden, as well as a representative from the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (FRONTEX) and representatives of the Baltic Sea Region Special Committee for combating organized crime.

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