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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Bobrowniki. The largest smuggling of cigarettes from Belarus to Poland. Among the arrested customs officers

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Polish services have broken up a group responsible for the largest smuggling of cigarettes from Belarus to Poland in history. In the investigation, 18 people were charged, including seven officers of the National Revenue Administration from the border crossing in Bobrowniki.

“This is one of the biggest cases in the history of the Border Guard. Two years ago, just before the start of migration pressure on the Polish-Belarusian border, we seized a record number of cigarettes smuggled from Belarus. As it turned out, a well-organized criminal group was behind it, which unfortunately also managed to corrupt seven officers CASH” – informed the press officer of the Border Guard, Lieutenant Anna Michalska.

According to the investigators’ findings, the group operated in 2020-2021. During its activity, it smuggled over 18.8 million packs of cigarettes from Belarus to Poland through the road border crossing in Bobrowniki and the railway border crossing in Terespol, which exposed the State Treasury to a loss of over PLN 437 million. “The criminal group was led by a 59-year-old Pole from the Podlaskie Voivodeship. The man currently lived in Warsaw. He was responsible for ordering cigarettes in Belarus, for organizing the smuggling of cigarettes across the border and for their further distribution” – explained the spokeswoman for the Border Guard.

The activities were supported by Europol

The criminal group also had a designated contact person with the officers of the National Revenue Administration. It was a 49-year-old Pole whose task was to pay corrupt officers money.

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The organizers of the biggest smuggling were detainedborder guards

The arrests, in which officers of the Border Guard and officers of the Internal Inspection Office of the Ministry of Finance took part, in cooperation with officers of the Central Investigation Bureau of the Police and the Podlasie National Revenue Administration took place last week. The activities of Polish services were supported by Europol. “Nearly 200 officers took part in the action. Over 30 places were searched. The officers were supported by KAS service dogs trained to detect money” – said the spokeswoman for the head of the National Revenue Administration, senior rachm. Justyna Pasieczynska.

More detainees

Initially, the investigators detained 15 people, a few days later another person was detained, while two were brought from the detention center. In total, 18 people were brought to the Podlaskie Branch of the Department for Organized Crime and Corruption of the National Prosecutor’s Office in Białystok.

“The prosecutor presented two detainees with charges of leading an organized crime group and smuggling cigarettes without Polish excise stamps of great value. In addition, the group’s leaders are suspected of bribing KAS officers serving at the Customs Department in Bobrowniki and laundering money from smuggling cigarettes. The investigation shows that the suspects invested the profits from smuggling cigarettes in real estate, the Press Department of the National Prosecutor’s Office informed.

Prosecutor’s charges

Two persons were charged by the prosecutor with regard to participation in an organized criminal group and to one of them facilitating the corruption of customs officers. Three detained persons were charged with receiving smuggled excise goods. “The next detained and brought men heard allegations of participation in an organized criminal group involved in smuggling cigarettes from Belarus to Poland with a total value of almost PLN 378 million. One of the men is also suspected of money laundering,” the National Prosecutor’s Office reported.

“The prosecutor presented seven detained KAS officers from the border crossing in Bobrowniki with allegations of participation in an organized criminal group. Further allegations concern facilitating the smuggling of cigarettes to other members of an organized criminal group in a total amount of over 16 million packages. In addition, the prosecutor presented all KAS officers with allegations of accepting financial benefits in a total amount of EUR 400,000 At the same time, the prosecutor presented charges to 6 officers regarding the disclosure of information about the operation of the border crossing in Bobrowniki to unauthorized persons, the National Prosecutor’s Office reported.

Customs officers accepted bribes

According to the findings of the investigation, customs officers accepted bribes from other members of the group in the amount of 5,000 to 45,000 euros. “In return for the accepted benefits, they did not carry out control activities and a detailed customs review, and provided information relevant to the members of the group, including the organization of service at the border crossing” – noted the National Prosecutor’s Office.

After presenting the charges, the prosecutor sent requests to the court for pre-trial detention against 16 suspects. “The court shared the prosecutor’s arguments and imposed pre-trial detention on 15 suspects for three months, and a preventive measure in the form of police supervision for one person. For 2 more suspects, the prosecutor applied preventive measures in the form of police supervision, a ban on leaving the country and property sureties in the amount of PLN 300,000” – explained the National Prosecutor’s Office.

The organizers of the biggest smuggling were detainedborder guards

The prosecutor secured the property of the suspects against future penalties, including money in EUR and USD, gold bars, jewelry and cars with a total value exceeding PLN 10 million. The charges could be punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Investigators say the case is ongoing and further arrests are possible.

Main photo source: border guards

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