Smuggling tobacco products to UK is getting so hugely profitable that smugglers even started to offer teenagers free trips to Spain in exchange for bringing cigarettes with them to the country.
According to UK Customs authorities, they are confiscating up to 50 million of smokes, and it becomes evident that criminal gangs are using teenagers to smuggle cigarettes into Britain by giving them flight tickets and money to have holidays in those European countries where cigarettes are less expensive.
Officials state that 15-year-old boys and girls are asked to select minor airports like in Exeter, or Newcastle to travel to Europe, in order to escape detection. The most popular place to smuggle cigarettes from is Spanish tourist paradise – Canary Islands.
Gangsters book cheap flight tickets and give adolescents suitcases, to put there as many cartons of cigarettes as possible.
A UK Customs Department spokesman reported that in majority of cases the youngsters didn’t know that they were exploited by criminal syndicates involved in cigarette smuggling, Europe most booming type of organized crime, which emerged recently.
The spokesman said that cigarette smuggling became an integral part of modern organized crime, involving international criminal syndicates that as well take part in human trafficking and drug contraband.
In august, three 17 year olds from Exeter were detained with almost 200.000 illicit cigarettes in their luggage. September,1st a Newcastle boy barely avoided criminal charges after being arrested in local airport with 10.000 smokes in a suitcase. It was his fourth trip to Canary Islands, according to the documents.
In other case, five teenage girls were detained in Robin Hood airport with 100.000 cigarettes in the suitcases. Firstly, they said it was not their luggage, but after two days in jail admitted that were employed by a gang to stock up with cigarettes in return for a four-day free tour to Tenerife.
The girls refused to give police officers names or coordinates of organizers of their trips, but the policemen think that they are scarred for their families who could be intimidated by criminals.
Each of four girls carried 25.000 cigarettes which equals to £2,500 in lost taxes.
Customs spokesman reported that from the beginning of 2009 and up to this moment of time they officers have seized approximately 350 million of smuggled cigarettes, what could result in £65 million loss in duties from the budget.
Cigarette industry is also concerned with huge drops in profits. British American Tobacco, the largest cigarette maker in UK and major rival Imperial Tobacco declared that they have lost £600 million in profits last year.
Officials suggest smuggling cigarettes is becoming popular among syndicates mainly because of enormous profits it can provide.
Smugglers often distribute single-cigarettes or packs for about a half of their retail prices in the shops The UK is home to Europe’s highest cigarette prices, with a pack of cigarettes costing around £6 ($10) in Britain.