Greek customs inspectors located and confiscated 390,000 smuggled cigarettes at the Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos” on Tuesday evening.

According to reports, customs officials conducted a physical investigation of 13 containers found in a warehouse at Greece’s largest airport after utilizing intelligence relayed by foreign law enforcement agencies. According to sources, the illicit cargo originated from the United Arab Emirates and had a non-apparent recipient.

Upon inspection, it was found that the boxes, declared as general cargo, contained a total of 1,950 cartons with 390,000 smuggled cigarettes, with corresponding duties and taxes amounting to €79,000.

The smuggled cigarettes were confiscated, and investigations are ongoing to determine and locate the recipient of the boxes.

Illicit Cigarette Trade a “scourge”

In 2022, law enforcement authorities conducted 39,476 inspections, resulting in the seizure of 844 million illegal cigarettes and 321 tons of tobacco. In 2022, the Independent Authority for Public Revenue (IAPR) identified and seized a total of 60.1 million cigarettes, with corresponding taxes and duties amounting to 12,513,401 euros.

In the first quarter of 2023, Greek police dismantled a criminal organization involved in the production and trafficking of illicit tobacco products, seizing 11.5 million cigarettes and 20 tons of processed tobacco, with taxes totaling 2.5 million euros.

The primary driver of cigarette smuggling is the over-taxation of legal tobacco products (cigarettes, manufactured tobacco products such as cigars and tobacco), which, combined with the economic crisis, has led smokers in recent years to opt for cheaper substitutes for legal cigarettes.

A KPMG study even reported that in 2021, 3.4 billion illegal cigarettes were consumed in the EU, accounting for 24% of total consumption.