The Tax Board has confiscated 13,716,000 contraband cigarettes - 685,000 packs - from three shipments in just three weeks. The has been estimated that were those cigarettes to be sold on the black market; damages to the state in the loss of excise and purchase tax would have amounted to 1.65 million euros.
"The last time we discovered such a large quantity was a few years back, when over 4 million cigarettes were hidden behind flowerpots in a sea container. The size of the discovery is put into perspective by the fact that in 2013 the Tax Board confiscated 11.2 million cigarettes in total," said Peeter Paisuots from the Tax Board.
Paisuots said the illegal shipments were discovered thanks to good international cooperation and the attentiveness of the customs officers.
"Our Latvian colleagues informed us about the first suspicious truck and we acted immediately. In the truck we found almost 3 million contraband cigarettes, hidden between the boxes filled with hangers. A week later customs officers noticed another suspicious truck and decided to search it. Another 3 million cigarettes were found hidden in the trailer," he said.
The third truck, carrying 780 boxes of cigarettes, was stopped near Uulu, a village some 50 kilometers from the Latvian border and 15 kilometers from Pärnu, on the route of the Via Baltica highway.
All three truck drivers in whose vehicles the cigarettes were discovered have been detained for further investigation. Police has arrested two more people for their suspected involvement in the smuggling.