Officials from the Malta Customs Scanning Unit reported “a remarkable, one of a kind, cigarettes’ haul at the Freeport”. A full load 40 foot container, en-route from Russia to another European Member State, was selected for scanning upon arrival in Malta. Almost 3 million contraband cigarettes were caught, defrauding the exchequer of €670,000.
After an operation spanning over 36 hours, 145,000 packets of 20 cigarettes each, amounting to 2,900,000 cigarettes were found. The endangered taxes amount to more than €670,000. The haul was seized by Customs, pending investigations. OLAF, Europol and the Authorities of the intended recipient European Member State have been duly informed.
The container was declared as carrying pallets of wood planks and it was physically established that the contents were indeed wood planks. However, after viewing the scanning image, Customs scanning officials flagged suspicious items concealed within the planks.
Upon physically inspecting the load, there was nothing suspicious. However, weight discrepancies were also noticed between one plank and the other. The officials decided to break open one of the planks. Upon doing so, 48 packets of contraband cigarettes poured out. Subsequently, more cigarettes were found concealed within the wood planks.