Bratislava, February 16 (TASR) – Financial Administration (FS) detected the largest ever illegal cigarette production plant in Slovakia as part of an operation codenamed Black Panther last week, FS president Jiri Zezulka told a news conference on Tuesday.
During the raids in Lucenec and Tomasovce (both Banska Bystrica region), the FS criminal office seized two complete cigarette production lines, along with 24.6 million cigarettes and more than 44 tonnes of tobacco. FS has calculated the value of potential VAT and excise tax evasion at some €6 million.
Sixteen Ukrainians and two Slovaks were detained in the operation, in which FS cooperated with the National Crime Agency (NAKA), the Slovak army and fire-fighters. A judge from Lucenec district court remanded them in custody. “Over the past two weeks we’ve seized six times more cigarettes than we did during the whole of last year. This operation proves that we’re achieving ever better results in investigative and operational activities,” stated Zezulka.
According to Zezulka, Black Panther wasn’t the only operation to bring results over the past couple of weeks. In the past 14 days, FS has notched up four major seizures of illegal cigarette and tobacco imports, mainly in Vysne Nemecke (Kosice region) and in the Orava area.
Producing, smuggling or smoking illegal cigarettes is viewed as support for criminal groups and impoverishing the country and its citizens, stated Finance Minister Eduard Heger (OLaNO). “With these operations we didn’t only protect the state from tax evasion, but also people’s health,” added the minister.