On guard against illicit cigarette trade

In the evening of 8 September, officers of the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova seized almost 2 million illicit cigarettes at the administrative boundary line. The cigarettes were detected in a truck full of sand thanks to the law enforcers’ professional risk analysis. On this occasion, EUBAM congratulates the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova on the good-performed job and wishes more such successful operations in the future.

Illicit tobacco trade is a key threat in EUBAM’s area of operations making it one of the highest priorities for the Mission. Especially, this notorious phenomenon is acute at the central segment of the Mission’s area of operation. The problem is rooted in previous excessive import of cigarettes to Transnistrian region, when in 2020 approximately 1.7 billion cigarettes were legally imported to the region. At the same time, the elevated risk of illicit cigarette trade is provoked by the discrepancy between cigarette taxation levels in Chisinau and Tiraspol. Consequently, on the right bank of the Nistru River you will pay 2.4 EUR for the average pack of cigarettes, on the left bank you will buy it for a little more than 1 EUR. Considering the proximity of the European market with considerably higher prices for tobacco produce, illicit trade is a real cornucopia for all sorts of smuggling activities.

Hence, EUBAM has been actively supporting and assisting partner services in their fight against illicit tobacco since 2005. Through advisory activity on risk analysis and regular on-the-job mentoring on perpetrators’ modi operandi, the Mission continues to enhance operational and strategic capacities of Ukrainian and Moldovan law enforcers at the different levels. Finally, yet importantly, it is essential to highlight the activity of EUBAM-driven Task Force Tobacco Group, which creates a unique platform for strategic cooperation between law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, representatives of EU, and major cigarette producers.