Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office has said that it pressed charges against seven people following arrests in a cigarette smuggling ring bust last month.
On April 9, two customs officials were charged with malfeasance in office, the prosecutor’s office said. The duo were accused of allowing seven trucks carrying cigarettes worth 55.7 million leva (about 28.5 million euro), to enter Bulgaria between March 16 and March 29, without undergoing the required customs checks.
Five other people, including another two customs officials, a border police guard and two employees of a freight company, were charged on April 11 on accusations of carrying out or aiding and abetting contraband.
The two customs officials were accused of aiding smugglers and letting in cigarette shipments worth 39.8 million leva and 31 million leva, respectively. The border guard and freight company manager were accused of helping the same shipment of cigarettes worth 39.8 million leva, while the other employee of the freight company was accused of aiding and abetting contraband worth 15.5 million leva.
According to prosecutors, the smugglers shipped the cigarettes to the Turkish-Bulgarian border using paperwork claiming that the goods would transit through Bulgaria. Once at the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint, the perpetrators changed the licence plates and used false paperwork that said that the trucks carried textile goods.
Police in Plovdiv seized a shipment of smuggled cigarettes on March 29 and arrested the entire customs shift that allowed the cargo truck through the checkpoint, Bulgarian National Radio reported at the time. A second truck was seized at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint after police reviewed the surveillance cameras.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said at the time that long weekends caused by public holidays, such as Bulgaria’s Liberation Day in early March, were specifically targeted by smugglers to ship goods across the border. Prior to Bulgaria’s four-day Easter weekend on April 10-13, Bulgarian police and customs officers launched a large-scale anti-smuggling operation at the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint with Turkey.
(Photo: Anton Lefterov)