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Customs investigators put a stop to the activities of a Polish group

After months of investigations, Viennese Customs investigators delivered an impressive blow to a Polish gang selling smuggled cigarettes on a grand scale. The eight-man group delivered cigarettes, which they had purchased on the black market in Poland, to Vienna, where they were stored in a single-family home and laboriously repackaged in individual cartons. Packages of about 30 to 50 cigarette cartons were then sent to Great Britain via various service companies. The data regarding both the senders and the recipients was falsified or used unlawfully.

When the suspicion that an organised Polish group was smuggling and selling cigarettes was confirmed, investigators carried out court-ordered surveillance of mobile telephone calls, and the suspect house in Vienna and a number of cars were placed under observation.

On 19 November 2017, the Vienna task force (WEGA) and the Customs investigators, accompanied by their police dogs, Mex and Thor, finally intervened. The task force conducted searches at three locations in Vienna based on the results of the investigations and a court-ordered search warrant.

Seven Polish nationals were “caught red-handed” in a single-family house where the group regularly met, and police and customs officials arrested them at 9:15 p.m. A total of 2,308 cartons containing 461,660 smuggled cigarettes, which had originally come from Ukraine and Moldova, were seized. Six vehicles used in the offences and numerous pieces of evidence, such as written records, mobile phones and notebooks were also confiscated Five vehicles used in the offence were equipped with secret hiding places. This means that the passenger compartments and boots of the cars were manipulated to create hollowed-out areas and hiding places so that the smuggled cigarettes could be transported over the border more easily.
In addition, 4.15 grams of a white powder packed in aluminium foil were found among the personal effects of one of the perpetrators. A drug test revealed that the powder was cocaine.

The evidence found, indicated that the packages of cigarettes were not only sent to Great Britain from Greater Vienna but also from Graz, St. Pölten, Krems and Linz. At the current stage of the investigation, it is estimated that this Polish gang had concealed at least 45,000 cartons – or 9 million smuggled cigarettes – with a value of just under EUR 2 million since September 2016.

Combating smuggling and tax-and-duty fraud is one of the focuses of the tax administration. This successful seizure put a stop to the criminal activities of the gang and represents a big step against organised crime.