Pärnu County Court has handed down a one-year suspended prison sentence to a Lithuanian man who brought over three million illicit cigarettes into Estonia in April.
The man is also barred from entering Estonia for the next five years.
The man was stopped by Estonian Tax and Customs Board (MTA) agents on the Ikla-Pärnu highway towards the end of April and 3,180,000 LM Red brand cigarettes were discovered in his vehicle, according to an MTA spokesperson.
The cigarettes, which lacked the required taxation stamp and are to be destroyed, should have incurred an excise duty of €390,345.
This is not the first time in recent months that such quantities of contraband cigarettes have been apprehended by the MTA. In February, 4.5 million cigarettes were found squirreled away in the window frames of a truck trailer as the vehicle boarded a ferry at the port of Paldiski.
According to Peeter Paisuots, head of the West Estonian district of the MTA, the opening of the borders that came in with Estonia's accession to the Schengen Zone in 2007 has seen an unwelcome rise in illicit transit of goods in Estonia, along the South to North, and East to West routes in particular.
However Paisuots remained upbeat about containing the problem in future and expressed his confidence in MTA officials to discharge their duties effectively.
"We are very well informed about what is going on in neighboring countries, and we can see what smuggling activities are happening from the broader perspective and are promptly reacting to the changing situation," said Paisuots.
Editor: Andrew Whyte