10 million counterfeit cigarettes were seized at a warehouse in Stabroek north of Antwerp on 9 January. Later a further 30 million cigarettes were seized in Antwerp and another 86 million in Brecht (Antwerp province). The cigarettes come from Southeast Asia.
Francis Adyns of the Federal Finance Service told VRT News that “It is still unclear how they got into the country. However, the is a strong possibility that they come into the country via the port of Antwerp”.
The Customs are now investigating whether the cigarettes were destined for the Belgian market or if they were to be sent to customers further afield.
"We came normally ascertain this by the language used on the packets”.
The counterfeit packs seized include the brands Rothmans Blue, John Player Special and em@il. The haul equates to 65 million euro’s worth of evaded import duty, tobacco duty and VAT.
"As well as the exchequer the companies that produce the cigarettes also lose out as a result of counterfeiting. In addition to this there is addition danger to public health. Smoking is of course dangerous anyway, but counterfeit cigarettes like these are produced in onhygenic conditions and no-one checks what is in them, which makes them all the more risky”, Mr Ardyns explained.
8 suspects, all of whom say that they are Turkish nationals, have been detained for questioning.
During the whole of last year the Belgian Customs seize 174 million cigarettes. In 2018 this was 111 million, while 114 counterfeit cigarettes were seized during 2017.