Authorities in Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland have dismantled a criminal network involved in a large-scale VAT fraud concerning tobacco smuggling. The estimated damage caused by the tax evasion to the European Union budget amounts to over EUR 8 750 000.
In an action supported by Eurojust and Europol, one suspect was arrested. Over EUR 750 000, 7 high-value cars and 49 very high-value wristwatches were seized.
According to the investigation, an organised crime group (OCG) regularly and illegally delivered large quantities of cigarettes produced in the United Arab Emirates to Hungary.
In March 2021, the Hungarian Tax and Customs Administration seized nearly 23 million cigarettes in unsealed boxes that had arrived by plane from Dubai to the airport of Debrecen in Hungary. The Hungarian authorities intercepted the cargo when it was leaving the airport in trucks with Polish license plates. It is believed that there were two similar deliveries on 29 January and 26 February 2021.
The economic disadvantage caused by the illegal importation of cigarettes has been estimated at around EUR 8 750 000.
The case was opened at Eurojust by the Hungarian authorities in May 2021. The Agency actively facilitated cross-border judicial cooperation between the national authorities involved, including the execution of European Investigation Orders (EIOs) and the organization of a joint action day on 16 August.
Europol provided additional analytical support to the investigation, facilitated the exchange of information and supported the law enforcement authorities.
As a result of the cooperation, one suspect has been arrested. Over EUR 750 000 in several currencies, 7 high-value cars and 49 very high-value wristwatches were seized in Hungary. International and European Arrest Warrants (EAWs) have been issued against three more suspects still at large.
The following authorities took part in the operations:
• Hungary: Chief PPO of County Hajdú-Bihar; Hungarian Tax and Customs Administration
• Austria: CPPOCECC; PPO Innsbruck; Federal Ministry of Finance – Customs Office Innsbruck and Financial Criminal Authority
• Czech Republic: Municipal PPO in Prague; Police of the Czech Republic, Regional Headquarter for Prague, Economic Crime Unit
• Poland: PPO Łódź and Sosnowiec.