With more and more smokers attempting to get hold of a cheaper pack of cigarettes, the problem of cigarette smuggling appears to be as serious and persistent in Lithuania as it is in many other countries, since data from the Lithuanian Customs reveals that in 2014 cigarettes remained the most popular smuggled commodity in the country, also resulting in substantial losses in government income due to tax evasion. More specifically, in 2014 the Lithuanian customs officers seized 16 million packages of cigarettes and 3 tons of tobacco worth EUR 13 million, while a similar amount of tobacco had been seized in 2013 as well with 117 million pieces of cigarettes and 1.6 tons of tobacco.
Authorities are trying hard to curb this phenomenon both by intensifying their border checks and by trying to bring the culprits before the law, with over 200 pre-trial investigations of tobacco smuggling being initiated during 2014. The most problematic area, where the greatest quantities of contraband tobacco products were seized, is definitely the Lithuanian – Belarusian border. In fact, the cigarettes bearing the banderols of the Republic of Belarus comprised over half the amount of tobacco seized by the Lithuanian customs officers in 2014.
What is particularly impressive is the resourcefulness of cigarette traffickers and smugglers, who go to great lengths in order to effectively hide the contraband cigarettes in order to be able to deceive the Customs Officers, even hiding cigarettes the most odd of places, such as in funeral wreaths! The most common practice used by illicit cigarettes smugglers is trying to mask the cigarettes under bigger shipments of other legally imported products, such as potato sacks, canned beef, beer bottles, outdoor swings, frozen fish, as well as fish processing equipment and industrial vacuum cleaners.
However, the employment of specialized x-ray control systems that were first put into use in 2014 at all customs posts on the external EU border, including the Lithuanian border, has meant that Lithuanian customs officers are now better able and equip to combat cigarette trafficking and this is why they keep discovering more and more illegally carried tobacco products.