A tobacco production line that has filled the French market with millions of counterfeit cigarettes has been dismantled in Slovenia as a result of a complex investigation between the French and Slovenian authorities with the support of Europol.
Launched in October 2020, the investigation focused on an organised crime group involved in illicit tobacco production and distribution. After two successful action days in France in April and May 2021 targeting criminals involved in the distribution of these counterfeit cigarettes, the Slovenian authorities launched an investigation with the aim of arresting the suspects responsible for the production of these illegal products.
Following several coordination meetings between the French and Slovenian judicial and law enforcement authorities, under the supervision of Eurojust and Europol, it was agreed to organise an action day in Slovenia.
On January 25, 2022, more than one hundred officers of the Slovenian National Police Force (Policija) and Financial Administration (Finančna Uprava) raided eleven properties, including industrial premises and private residences. They were assisted in the field by officers of the French Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale), as well as by French magistrates of the Bordeaux Interregional Specialised Court (JIRS) and Europol officers.
This action made it possible to find different production sites set up in warehouses located in remote areas of Slovenia. In total, more than 26 tonnes of tobacco were seized, as well as 29 million filters, several machines for the manufacture of tobacco and ten tonnes of printed papers for packaging. The number of cigarettes that could have been produced with the seized goods would have had a value of 13 million euros on the French market.
Earlier in the same investigation, in November 2021, the Slovenian Financial Administration had seized an additional 12 tonnes of fine-cut tobacco.
Two leaders of the criminal network in charge of cigarette manufacturing were arrested under European arrest warrants, one in Croatia and one in Slovenia.
Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) supported the investigation by providing its secure communication platform and facilitating international cooperation between France, Slovenia and other member states, cross-checking and providing analytical support and operational expertise. One of its experts was sent to Maribor (Slovenia) to assist the national authorities on the same law enforcement action day.