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News article17 November 2022European Anti-Fraud Office1 min read

International authorities meet to target tobacco smugglers and their multi-million euro industry

Speakers and participants sitting in the conference room

The 25th annual Task Group Cigarettes Conference took place in Bordeaux between 14 and 16 November 2022. Resuming after the disruptions caused by the pandemic, this year’s conference was organised by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the French Customs – the Direction générale des douanes et des droits indirects. The event brought together around 90 experts from all 27 EU Member States as well as third countries such as Georgia, Israel, North Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Cigarette smuggling is an important source of revenue for criminal gangs, and it causes huge yearly losses to Member States and the EU in evaded customs duties and taxes. In 2021 alone, OLAF activities led to seizures of a total 437 million cigarettes, saving an estimated €90 million in revenue loss. Smuggled tobacco also poses great risks to both consumers and businesses. It undermines anti-smoking and public health campaigns, and violates the strict rules that the EU and Member States have on manufacturing, distribution and sale.

Cooperation between experts from EU Member States, third countries and OLAF is key to stopping and preventing illicit tobacco trade. The Task Group Cigarettes Conference aims precisely to enhance international operational cooperation and to support the fight against cigarette smuggling. Participants were able to share views and their experience on the ground in fighting cigarette smuggling and illicit production. Discussions focused on trends and results, objectives and strategies to push back. The topics included illegal factories and trafficking in water pipe tobacco, as a rise in the two phenomena has been detected over recent years. National authorities and OLAF are also closely monitoring the impact of the war in Ukraine on cigarette smuggling routes. Assessments are ongoing.

The conference was opened by Marta Castillo González, acting Head of Unit of OLAF’s unit B2 (Illicit Trade, Health and Environment - Operations and Investigations), and Florian Colas, Director of the France’s DNRED (Direction Nationale du Renseignement et des Enquêtes Douanières), a part of French Customs. Representatives of several international and regional organisations such as Ameripol, CELBET, EUBAM (EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine), Europol, FRONTEX and World Customs Organization also attended.

More information is available in the press release by Direction générale des douanes et droits indirects.


Publication date
17 November 2022
European Anti-Fraud Office
News type
  • OLAF news article