Illegal cigarette seizures increased threefold in 2015

The number of discovered attempts to smuggle illegal cigarettes into Latvia has increased threefold, Inara Petersone, the head of the State Revenue Service, said in an interview with public television on Friday.

As a consequence, the number of cigarettes seized by law enforcement authorities has increased, the tax chief said.

"We have to keep in mind that we have an external border with Belarus and Russia," Petersone said, noting that in these countries cigarettes are much cheaper than in Latvia and that smuggling them across the border might be highly lucrative.

She said, however, that most of the illegal cigarettes that are found, for instance, in rail freight, are not meant for the Latvian market. That might indicate that Latvia might operate as a smuggling hub for transporting cigarettes to other EU member states.

The number of cigarettes sold legally on the local market has increased by some 7%, while the price of smuggled cigarettes has grown, Petersone added.

About 1.7 million illegal cigarettes with Belorussian excise stamps were seized from a freight train at the Latvia-Belarus border at the end of November.

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