PERSONAL USE? A smuggler was stopped while transporting 12,000,000 cigarettes, which would take a pack-a-day smoker 1,643 years to finish.
RIGA - A cigarette smuggler with an enormous payload was caught near the Russian border in eastern Latvia on July 27. The State Revenue Service, which is in charge of customs issues, detained the driver of a large Mercedes cargo truck after it was found to be fully loaded with cigarettes.
The truck, which was stopped on the Kraslava-Rezekne highway, was carrying 610,000 packs of cigarettes 's totaling more than 12,000,000 individual smokes. Divided up, the stash would amount to nearly one pack for every man, woman and child in Riga, smokers and non-smokers alike.
"The reason we were examining the car was the preliminary analysis of information," was all the SRS communication department would tell The Baltic Times. They were unwilling to comment any further for fear of compromising the investigation.
The smuggler did not even make an attempt to conceal his cargo. The cigarettes were in large boxes clearly labelled "Baltic Tobacco Factory," and covered only by the canvas siding of the cargo truck. The Internet news portal Apollo reported that according to the truck's documents, the cargo was registered as "construction material."
The cigarettes, all of which were the "Jin Ling" and "Sovereign King Size" brands, were marked as having come from Russia. The SRS communication department said that according to information they had gathered so far, the intention of the smugglers was "to bring them further to some of the EU states."
The problem of cigarettes being smuggled from Latvia to other EU member states has recently been thrown into the spotlight. New data from Ireland suggests that as much as 60 percent of the seizures at Dublin airport are from flights originating in Riga, the Irish news agency independent.ie reported on July 30.
The report claimed that a smuggler could earn as much as 1,500 euros for every 10,000 cigarettes that are smuggled into Ireland, even after all costs are accounted for. This means that if the man caught on July 27 had successfully transported his entire load to a western European country such as Ireland, he would have made more than 1.8 million euros from the haul.
A criminal investigation of smuggling performed on a large scale has been launched against the driver, a Latvian citizen. If convicted, he faces between three and eight years in prison, or a fine of up to 150 minimum wages with possible confiscation of property. The smuggler will remain in detention during the investigation. A trial date has not yet been set for the case.