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Massive cigarette haul bound for Sweden

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16:14 CEST+02:00
Estonian customs officers have seized one million contraband cigarettes hidden in the cargo of a truck that was waiting to board a ship bound for Sweden, officials said on Tuesday.

"The Prince brand cigarettes with no tax tags were found in a truck heading to Sweden from the Estonian port of Paldiski at the end of last month," Liis Plakk of the Estonian tax and customs department, told AFP.

"With this find, we were able to prevent a huge amount of contraband cigarettes from reaching the Scandinavian market," she said.

The seizure of contraband cigarettes was the biggest this year by Estonian customs officers.

Cigarettes are three times more expensive in Sweden than in Estonia.

The haul would have fetched about 200,000 euros in Sweden. It was not immediately known where the cigarettes came from.

"Investigators are trying to the find out the origin of the cigarettes," Kristiina Herodes of the Estonian Prosecutors Office, told AFP.

The European Union has accorded new member states such as Estonia a transition period to gradually introduce excise taxes on cigarettes.

East and central European Countries which joined the EU last year expressed reservations about hiking cigarette prices to EU levels given the lower incomes of their citizens and the likelihood of increased smuggling from nearby states, notably Russia.

The driver of the truck has been arrested, officials said.


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