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News article13 October 2023European Anti-Fraud Office1 min read

International efforts against tobacco smugglers

Group photo of the participants of the 26th annual Task Group Cigarettes Conference in Ljubljana

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) together with the Financial Administration of the Republic of Slovenia organised the 26th annual Task Group Cigarettes Conference in Ljubljana on 10 and 11 October 2023. The event brought together nearly one hundred experts to discuss issues pertaining to the smuggling of cigarettes as well as Water Pipe Tobacco. Participants included delegates from all 27 EU Member States and third countries such as Moldova, North Macedonia, Serbia, Türkiye and Ukraine. Representatives of the World Customs Organisation, the Customs Eastern and South-Eastern Border Expert Team, the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine, EUROPOL and FRONTEX also attended the conference.

Participants shared their views and experience on the ground in fighting tobacco smuggling and illicit production. Discussions focused on recent trends, current challenges and strategies to combat these phenomena. Experts had lively discussions regarding the impact of the war in Ukraine on tobacco smuggling routes.

Cigarette smuggling is an important source of revenue for criminal gangs. It causes huge yearly losses to Member States and the EU in evaded customs duties and taxes. During 2022, OLAF operations led to seizures of over 531 million illicit cigarettes and the confiscation of 209 tonnes of raw tobacco, saving an estimated €153 million in revenue loss in the EU. Smuggled tobacco does not only pose a fiscal threat but is also a great risk to 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 tobacco smuggling.


Publication date
13 October 2023
European Anti-Fraud Office
News type
  • OLAF news article