An illegal production line of cigarettes flooding the French market with millions of counterfeit cigarettes has been dismantled in Slovenia as a result of a complex investigation between the French and Slovenian authorities with the support of Europol.
Initiated in October 2020, the investigation focused on an organised crime group involved in the illicit production and distribution of cigarettes. After two successful action days in France in April and May 2021 targeting the criminals involved in the distribution of these counterfeit cigarettes, the Slovenian authorities started a mirror investigation, aimed at arresting the suspects responsible for the production of these illegal products.
Following several coordination meetings between the French and Slovenian judicial and law enforcement authorities under the aegis of Eurojust and Europol, it was agreed to organise an action day in Slovenia.
On 25 January, over a hundred officers from the Slovenian National Police Force (Policija) and Financial Administration (Finančna Uprava) simultaneously raided 11 sites, including industrial premises and private residences. They were assisted in the field by officers from the French Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale), as well as French magistrates from the Bordeaux Interregional Specialised Court (JIRS) and Europol officers.
This action made it possible to find several production sites established in warehouses located in remote areas of Slovenia. In total, over 26 tonnes of tobacco were seized in Slovenia, as well as 29 million filters, several machines intended for the cigarette manufacture and ten tonnes of printed papers for packaging. The amount of cigarettes which could have been produced with the seized merchandise would have had a value of €13 million on the French market.
Two leaders of the criminal network in charge of the manufacture of cigarettes were arrested on the ground of European arrest warrants, one in Croatia, one in Slovenia. They will be handed over to the judicial authorities of the Bordeaux JIRS.
Earlier in the same case, the Slovenian Financial Administration seized in November 2021 some additional 12 tonnes of cut tobacco.