Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Hrodna as smuggling hub. How Belarusian cigarettes get into EU (ENG video)

Yaraslau Stseshyk, Belsat TV

Hrodna as smuggling hub. How Belarusian cigarettes get into EU (ENG video)
Belarus is introducing a short term visa-free entry for the citizens of the EU and removing fuel restrictions for Belarusians travelling abroad in the car. Belsat has learned from unofficial sources about the expected growth of contraband from our country. Reasons for it lie in corruption schemes and unfair trade policies.

Cigarettes manufactured in Belarus have once again surfaced in the crime reports of neighboring countries. According to todays report from Border Guard Service of Lithuania, guards with a service dog found seven boxes of contraband on the banks of the Neman at the Russian border. Overall, there were 3,500 Fest cigarettes with Belarusian excise stamps. Border guards detained a citizen of Lithuania using ambush tactics.


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Last Friday, the Polish border guards of the Sejny town placed on the Belarusian and Lithuanian border detained a much larger cargo 14,500 packets of smuggled cigarettes were in a special car stash. A citizen of Poland was detained.

In early September, a large consignment of Belarusian cigarettes was detained in the Latvian forests.

In general, European customs and border guards should be prepared for an increase of smuggling from Belarus. Belsat learned this directly from the smugglers.

HRODNA SMUGGLER:

Many former smugglers have again started to buy VW Passat B3 cars, which suddenly rose $ 500 in price, and they are again getting them ready to smuggle the fuel and cigarettes into the territory of Poland.


The reason for the increased activity of the smugglers is the abolition of restrictions on fuel export. On September 1, the government of our country canceled the special fee for leaving Belarus in the same vehicle more than once in 8 days. Therefore, there will be more of the so-called diesel fuel carriers loaded with Belarusian cigarettes.

HRODNA SMUGGLER:

There is a large stream going to Lithuania from the territory of Astravets, Ashmyany and Smarhon regions where operate cross-border smugglers who actively try to get into Lithuania to sell those cigarettes.


Belarusian smugglers float boxes with cigarettes down the river Viliya, then throwing the cigarette blocks across the border in the woods, collaborating with Lithuanian colleagues in crime. Lithuanians have offered not only to strengthen the security of the border area, but also to put pressure on the Hrodna based Neman Tobacco Factory. Vilnius is accusing the manufacturer of selling cigarettes indiscriminately.

SKIRMANTAS BIKELIS, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW OF LAW INSTITUTE, LITHUANIA:

We need to act at the level of the entire European Union. It may be political pressure both on Belarus and the Kaliningrad Region so that tobacco factories conducted a responsible business policy.


Publicist Viktar Sazonau, author of the book on Belarusian smugglers, said that both Hrodna citizens with cigarette blocks and the tobacco factory have economic reasons for their actions.

VIKTAR SAZONAU, AUTHOR OF THE BOOK MEMOIRS OF A SMUGGLER:

Every manufacturer is interested in selling their products. No matter what you are selling cigarettes or school notebooks you are interested in selling it. And when there is a buyer, you sell your products. Where these products go is of little interest for the manufacturer.


Lithuania, however, loses about 60 million euros annually to Belarusian cigarette smuggling. Approximately one in five cigarettes hit the market in the country illegally. This could not be possible without the participation of Belarusian and Lithuanian officials, says Viktar Sazonau.

VIKTAR SAZONAU, AUTHOR OF THE BOOK MEMOIRS OF A SMUGGLER:

It is clear that it is not about the smuggler with two packs of cigarettes in his pocket. Of course, we are talking about large quantities carried by big trucks, which are let inside the country, and from which a whole bunch of people who cover the shadow business profit.


This is confirmed by the smugglers.

HRODNA SMUGGLER:

A lot of us make deals with the Lithuanian customs, especially in the Lithuanian border area near Ashmyany and Astravets. After all, many of us have relatives there who then went to work at the customs.


The activities of smugglers have both economic and political consequences. The Interior Ministry of Belarus is opposed to the introduction of visa-free entry for EU citizens, which may come into force later this year, as this could trigger the growth of contraband.