The Polish Border Guard, together with other uniformed services, busted a criminal organization responsible for smuggling the greatest amount of cigarettes from Belarus to Poland. 18 people were charged, including seven National Revenue Administration (KAS) officers from the Bobrowniki border crossing.
“This is one of the biggest cases in the history of the Border Guard. Two years ago, just before the start of the migration pressure on the Polish-Belarusian border, we stopped a record amount of contraband cigarettes from Belarus. As it turned out, a well-organized criminal group was behind it, which unfortunately also managed to corrupt seven KAS officers,” Border Guard spokeswoman Lt. Anna Michalska told the Polish Press Agency (PAP).
❗️Oficerowie operacyjni z #PodlaskiOddziałSG opowiadają o rozbiciu zorganizowanej grupy przestępczej.Jej członkowie odpowiedzą za największy przemyt papierosów z🇧🇾do🇵🇱
Nad sprawą służby pracowały prawie 2 lata. Zatrzymano również 59-letniego mężczyznę, który kierował grupą.👇 pic.twitter.com/gazgwkoqRO
— Straż Graniczna (@Straz_Graniczna) February 16, 2023
According to the investigators, the group operated mainly from 2020 to 2021, when it smuggled more than 18.8 million packs of cigarettes from Belarus to Poland through the road border crossing in Bobrowniki and the railroad border crossing in Terespol, exposing the State Treasury to a loss of more than PLN 437 mln (EUR 91.7 mln).
“The criminal group was headed by a 59-year-old Pole originally from the Podlaskie region. The man was currently living in Warsaw. He was responsible for ordering cigarettes in Belarus, organizing the smuggling of cigarettes across the border, and for their distribution,” the Border Guard spokeswoman explained.
The criminal group also included a designated contact person to handle the National Revenue Administration officers. He was tasked with, among other things, paying the corrupt officers’ money.
The arrests took place last week, with the Polish services being supported by Europol. “Nearly 200 officers took part in the operation. More than 30 places were searched. The officers were supported by KAS service dogs trained to detect money,” a spokeswoman for the National Revenue Administration stressed.
“The prosecutor presented seven detained KAS officers from the Bobrowniki border crossing with charges of participation in an organized criminal group. Further charges concern facilitating other members of the organized crime group to smuggle cigarettes in a total of more than 16 million packs. In addition, the prosecutor presented all KAS officers with charges of accepting financial benefits in the total amount of EUR 400,000,” the National Public Prosecutor’s Office.
“In exchange for the accepted bribes, they (KAS officers) did not carry out control activities and detailed customs searches and provided information relevant to the members of the group, including, among other things, the work organization at the border crossing,” the prosecutor’s office added.
For future penalties, the prosecutor secured the suspects’ property, including money in EUR and USD currencies, gold bars, jewelry, and cars with a total value exceeding PLN 10 million.
The suspects could face up to 15 years in prison for the alleged acts.
According to the investigators, the case is a developing one and further arrests in the case are not excluded.
Photo: Straż Graniczna/ Twitter