Austrian customs administration: A successful summer 2016 Average 33 cartons of cigarettes per day, around 100 protected species seizures

Whether cigarettes, alcohol or drugs, seizures by the Eisenstadt Customs Office at Vienna Airport and its field agencies reveal a wide range of illegal imports. In particular, there was an increase in illegal imports of cigarettes and tobacco. 

Approximately 33 cartons of cigarettes per day – such is the impressive number of seizures over the summer from travellers passing through customs at Vienna Airport. During the period from June to August 2016, in the context of customs clearance at Vienna Airport alone, 603,370 cigarettes were confiscated. In addition, during the same 3-month period, 72.75 kg of tobacco goods were taken out of circulation. Overall, these statistics evidence a significant increase in tobacco smuggling. 

In addition, approximately 100 seizures of protected animal and plant species took place. Over 1 kg of drugs and approximately 56 litres of alcohol were confiscated by customs officers during controls on the so-called red/green channel, and cash imports having a total value of EUR 191,259 were rendered subject to a customs declaration, since anyone importing an amount of EUR 10,000 or more in cash, or equivalent means of payment, is required to make a corresponding declaration. Likewise, the import of animals, plants, foodstuffs and many other goods is subject to special prohibitions and restrictions. 

Tobacco and alcoholic beverages in luggage are generally only exempt from duty if they serve personal requirements and moreover do not exceed specific maximum quantities. On the roads too, more and more such seizures are taking place, resulting in confiscation of the goods carried. In the summer of 2016, the Heiligenkreuz Customs Office alone took 167,030 illegal cigarettes out of circulation. 

Of these, 91,630 were, for instance, seized within the framework of a vehicle control exercise undertaken by the Burgenland Operational Customs Service. The driver had placed approximately 458 cartons of cigarettes on open view in the trunk of his vehicle and transported them through at least four countries en route to his final destination of Vienna, before he was arrested by the Austrian customs authorities. The journey ended with the driver's arrest, institution of criminal proceedings for tax offences, and a monetary fine totalling EUR 20,774.90, as well as an order to pay unpaid duties totalling EUR 22,411.83. 

In the case of a public bus, more effort was made to hide the contraband, which also underwent control by the Heiligenkreuz Customs Office. 55,600 cigarettes of various brands had been placed to the left and right along the entire length of the vehicle behind the air-conditioning covers, and great trouble had been taken to hide them further behind specially-fitted metal plates. Here too, the cigarettes were seized, and criminal proceedings for tax offences were instituted by the Austrian customs administration. 

The seizure actions were also by supported by specially-trained customs dogs. Customs investigators are continuing their investigations. 

"From elaborate hiding places to almost deliberately-unconcealed contraband – these two cases are perfect examples of the numerous ways in which fraudsters seek to carry on their criminal activities," concluded Stefan Fleischhacker, Head of the Eisenstadt Customs Office at Vienna Airport, adding, "I am all the more gratified when my employees, through their daily commitment, thwart these unlawful objectives and uncover smuggling and fraud. This benefits us all, in terms of consumer protection, tax fairness and Austria's economic prosperity!"