Ukraine border police intercept record load of smuggled cigarettes

Ukraine border police intercept record load of smuggled cigarettes Kiev - Ukrainian border police have intercepted a record load of smuggled cigarettes, Korrespondent magazine reported Wednesday. Law enforcers at the Chop border crossing inspecting vehicles traveling from the former Soviet republic into the Czech Republic late Tuesday night discovered more than 220,000 packages of L&M cigarettes concealed in a rail car.

The freight car built to haul flammable or toxic liquid gas contained four hidden compartments between the gas tanks' steel exterior and glass interior walls, in which smugglers had stored the cigarettes, a Ukraine border police official said.

The illicit shipment had a street value of approximately a half million dollars inside Ukraine, and as much as 1.5 million dollars inside the European Union. It was the most valuable illicit cigarette haul ever discovered by Ukrainian law enforcers.

The exporter reportedly was a private company in the eastern Ukrainian city Kharkiv.

Border police uncovered the shipment thanks to a new scanning machine, according to the article.

"We believe we have destroyed the operations of a major cigarette smuggling ring," a Ukraine customs service statement claimed.

Kharkiv is a centre of cigarette production in Ukraine, having seen heavy investment from international tobacco companies in the last decade.

Smuggling goods wholesale into the European Union has long been one of Ukraine's most profitable businesses, frequently taking place with the collusion of corrupt law enforcers, according to Ukrainian media reports.

The goods earning Ukrainian smugglers the highest returns are narcotics, cigarettes, natural gas, crude oil, petrol, and slaves, according to Interpol officials.

Small-scale smuggling is an important industry in Ukraine's poor western provinces, where the economies of some villages are heavily dependent on small batches of goods transported by villagers as duty-free personal luggage back and forth between Ukraine and the EU.

Ukraine's border police in late March arrested a Mongolian national with an expired diplomatic passport attempting to export more than 1,000 packs of cigarettes as part of his personal effects. (dpa)