Czech Republic: International Cigarette Smuggling Ring Busted

Czech police have arrested two Czech nationals, a Pole and a Ukrainian for operating a cigarette smuggling ring. They are accused of smuggling large amounts of cigarettes from Russia into the Czech Republic, via a tunnel between Ukraine and Slovakia. Police seized 84,000 cigarettes during the bust. 

Czech Customs Police told CTK news Wednesday that the busted group may be connected to a cigarette smuggling operation that used a 700-meter tunnel connecting the Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod with the villages of Vysne and Nizne Nemecke in Slovakia that police found in July.

"This tunnel was equipped with a small train, capable of transporting various kinds of goods and we suspect also people," said Robert Kalinak, Slovak Interior Minister. This is the first such tunnel discovered in the region, he added.

The entrance was discovered in a warehouse near Vysne and Nizne Nemecke. Slovak tax evasion forces had been watching the warehouse prior to the bust. The police seized more than 2.5 million cigarettes during the operation.

"Cigarette smuggling from Eastern countries has been on the increase in the recent years when the prices of cigarettes have been going up," said Jitka Blahutova, the spokesperson for the Plzen, Czech Republic customs police.

The border between Slovakia and Ukraine is along the eastern border of the Schengen Area. Once inside Slovakia, smuggled cigarettes can be easily distributed to other Schengen states.