Bootleg Belarusian cigarettes on a train seized by Lithuanian Customs

Image: Muitinės kriminalinė tarnyba

The Lithuanian Customs Criminal Service (MKT) stopped a freight train coming from Belarus and seized 44,620 euros worth of bootleg cigarettes bound for Kaliningrad. Importing tobacco from Belarus has been sanctioned by the EU since July 2021.

Lithuanian Customs officials claimed to have found 11,500 packs of Fest and Minsk cigarettes, both produced in Belarus by the Grodno tobacco factory, on Wednesday 8 February around 1:30 pm at the Stasylai railway station. As MKT pointed out, the cigarettes were buried under stone rubble, which was being transported to the Russian exclave.

Image: © Muitinės kriminalinė tarnyba

“The inspection was carried out by physical means, with officers poking the rubble with iron spikes”, said MKT. They claimed that bootleg cigarettes were found in two wagons of the convoy. The Vilnius branch of MKT has launched an investigation on smuggling charges. Smuggling cigarettes from Belarus is quite a common practice, since the price for a pack revolves around 0,80 euros, while in Lithuania it reaches 4,30 euros.

Image: © Muitinės kriminalinė tarnyba

It’s not KMT’s first seizure of wagons

This is far from the first instance where Lithuanian border guards had to stop a convoy going to or coming from Kaliningrad or Russia. As MKT pointed out, 19 similar cases occurred in 2022, with 15 of them being launched into smuggling investigation at the Kena border crossing in eastern Lithuania. In November 2022, for example, wagons marked with pro-Russian symbols were rejected by the Lithuanian border patrol in two separate episodes.

In the first one, on 3 November, two trains coming from Guryevsk, near Kaliningrad, and heading to Tolyatti, were stopped and five empty wagons were seized and sent back. The wagons were in fact marked with the motto of the Russian Airborne Forces: “Nobody But Us”. The second episode, on 8 November, saw a convoy coming from Belarus being stopped and detained at the Kena border crossing. One of the wagons making up the convoy was marked with a Z, one of the most famous symbols of the Russian army. In both these instances, however, the wagons were seized when empty and not because of their cargo.

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Author: Marco Raimondi

Marco Raimondi is an editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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