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Big Tobacca saskaras ar lielu ES viltojumu problēmu

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Spānijas policija šā gada sākumā veica kratīšanu trīs slepenās tabakas rūpnīcās, konfiscējot tabakas lapas un nelegālās cigaretes gandrīz 40 miljonu eiro vērtībā.

At one, in the northern town of Alfaro, they found 10 Ukrainian workers, five of them war refugees, who’d been put to work with no contracts and scant pay, police said. They worked all day and lived at the factory and are forbidden from leaving.

Šī operācija ir viena no desmitiem visā ES, par kuru reģionālās policijas un krāpšanas apkarošanas aģentūras norāda, ka nelegālo cigarešu konfiskāciju skaits ir rekordaugsts.

Saskaņā ar Reuters intervijām ar pusduci nozares speciālistu, tostarp tiesībaizsardzības amatpersonām, noziedznieku grupas, kas tradicionāli galvenokārt iegādājas viltotus tabakas izstrādājumus ārpus ES , tabakas nozares vadītāji un nozares analītiķi.

Tendenci pastiprināja Covid-19 pandēmijas izraisītā ceļojumu pārtraukšana, kas apgrūtināja piegādes no ārpus bloka, paziņoja Eiropas Birojs krāpšanas apkarošanai (OLAF). Iespējams, to vēl vairāk paātrināja karš Ukrainā, kas gadiem ilgi ir bijusi nelegālās tabakas ražošanas centrs un tranzīta ceļš, piebilda OLAF.

As well as the human cost, counterfeiting is a financial thorn in the side of the world’s biggest tobacco companies at a time when they’re facing a global decline in smoking that’s spurred large investments in alternative products like vapes.

“Criminal gangs have switched from importing counterfeit products into Europe to establishing illicit manufacturing facilities within EU borders,” said Cyrille Olive, British American Tobacco’s (BAT) (BATS.L) reģionālais nelegālās tirdzniecības vadītājs.

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BAT – one of tobacco’s global giants with Imperial Brands (IMB.L), Japan Tobacco (2914.T) and Philip Morris International – has seen increased counterfeiting since last year in France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Denmark and the Czech Republic, Olive added.

Some campaigners have accused Big Tobacco of overstating the size of the illicit market to help lobby against higher taxes – something the companies deny. Nonetheless, the latest data shows seizures of illicit cigarettes are increasing.

Saskaņā ar OLAF datiem pagājušajā gadā visā ES tika aizturēts rekordliels nelegālo cigarešu skaits – 531 miljons, kas ir par 43% vairāk nekā 370. gadā konfiscētajiem aptuveni 2020 miljoniem. Apmēram 60% cigarešu bija no nelegālās ražošanas blokā, bet pārējās tika ievestas kontrabandas ceļā.

Europol told Reuters that last year would also likely set a record for the number of illegal cigarette factories that were reported shut down by national police forces, although the full-year data isn’t yet available.

TABAKAS IZMEKLĒTĀJI

Nozare ir reaģējusi, nolīgusi izmeklētājus, lai pētītu nelikumīgas darbības un dalītos izlūkdatos ar Eiropas iestādēm, aģentūrai Reuters sacīja Japan Tobacco, BAT un Imperial Brands vadītāji.

The three tobacco majors declined to put a figure on the financial hit from the illicit trade. Japan Tobacco has, though, spent “hundreds of millions of dollars” gathering information on the counterfeiters which it then passes on to European authorities like OLAF, according to Vincent Byrne, head of the company’s anti-illicit trade operations.

“We have a dedicated function within the company to try and protect our assets, protect our brands, and combat illegal trade,” said Byrne, a former detective who investigated organised crime in Ireland.

BAT un Imperial Brands teica, ka viņiem ir arī izlūkošanas operācijas.

Philip Morris International atteicās komentēt šo rakstu.

IEPAKOJUMS: MAZĀK PAR EIRO

Counterfeiters typically replicate popular cigarette brands, which include Japan Tobacco’s Winston, Philip Morris’ Marlboro, British America’s Dunhill and Imperial Brands’ Nobel.

Bērns sacīja, ka 20 cigarešu paciņas izgatavošana maksā mazāk nekā eiro, taču atkarībā no tirgus tirgo vairākas reizes vairāk.

Supplies from China and other parts of Asia – which used to be the biggest sources of counterfeit cigarettes that ended up in the EU – shrank during COVID-19 lockdowns, spurring increasing production in Europe itself, according to Alex McDonald, head of group security at Imperial Brands.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have quickened that trend, said Ernesto Bianchi, OLAF’s director of revenue and international operations, investigations and strategy, adding that the agency was “analysing how the fraudsters may have reconfigured their routes”.

Ukraine had been a hub for the manufacturing of illicit tobacco and a supply route for illicit and counterfeit cigarettes made in Russia and Belarus, activities that may have been disrupted by the war, Imperial Brands’ McDonald said.

Daži viltotāji vilina un piespiež ukraiņu bēgļus kļūt par strādniekiem.

Pagājušajā mēnesī Roda de Terā, 80 km attālumā no Barselonas, tika demontēta nelegāla tabakas fabrika, ceturtdien paziņoja Spānijas policija. Amatpersonas konfiscēja 11,400 7,360 kilogramus tabakas un XNUMX XNUMX cigarešu paciņas. Tur tika atrasti strādā seši ukraiņi.

In Italy, officials said in April last year they had found about 82 tonnes of counterfeit cigarettes inside a factory in the industrial area of the country’s ​​Pomezia municipality.

Izmeklētāji atklājuši, ka viņi atraduši Krievijas, Moldovas un Ukrainas strādniekus, kas veica nogurdinošas maiņas nedrošā vidē, kur aizmūrēti logi neļāva iztvaikoties.

“A good many workers from Ukraine have been found in these illegal factories,” Japan Tobacco’s Byrne said about counterfeiting operations across the EU.

“They’re collected in a van at an airport, blacked out windows, driven around and swapped into another van,” Byrne, said recounting a particular incident.

“Eventually they’re delivered to the factory. Mobile phones are taken from them. Essentially, it’s a form of modern-day slavery.”

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