Seven people were arrested on June 28 during a series of police raids aimed at busting a large cigarette-smuggling operation, Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry said.
A total of 10 addresses, including office premises used by the members of the alleged organised crime group, were raided by the chief directorate for combatting organised crime (CDCOC), overseen by prosecutors tasked with fighting organised crime.
The Interior Ministry said that the group have been under surveillance since mid-2011. Each member had clearly defined tasks – two were negotiators who bought cigarettes in bulk in Greece and ensured that the goods were smuggled across the border, two others were in charge of moving the cigarettes and warehousing, another two moved the goods and the last one financed the operations.
Five of the seven people arrested had criminal records. Two of the members were identified in Bulgarian media reports as Borislav Mandjukov from Varna, previously investigated for economic crimes ranging from fraud, tax evasion and fraudulent book-keeping, and Georgi Vladimirov, a former customs check-point chief who had previously been fired but re-instated on the job by court decision.
The police have intercepted several large shipments of smuggled cigarettes without excise duty stamps, totalling 22 million cigarettes. The amount of evaded excise duty tax is estimated at eight million leva, the Interior Ministry said.
Investigators also seized 35 mobile phones allegedly used to co-ordinate operations, SIM cards, a laptop and a tablet computer, as well as paperwork detailing the smuggling operation, including bills and notes on the quantities smuggled by the group in the past.