Croatia led the regional combat against illicit trade of tobacco products

Under the auspices of the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC) and JTI (Japan Tobacco International), over 50 most prominent experts from SELEC Member States (Republic of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Bulgaria, Republic of Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hellenic Republic, Hungary, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Republic of Serbia and Republic of Turkey) gathered and joined forces in combating illicit trade of tobacco products in Opatija, Republic of Croatia, October 22-23. The event was hosted by the Croatian Customs Administration.

Announcing the Conference, Cristian Duta, SELEC’s Director for Operations, stated: “Our objective is to provide support to Member States and enhance coordination in preventing and combating organised crime, where an element of trans-border activity is present. Our 12 years of experience in conducting operational activities, joint investigations, meetings, workshops and strategic analysis have proven that intensive exchange of information is crucial in supporting the efforts of the law enforcement agencies in the Member States”.

Zlatko Grabar, Director of Customs Administration – Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Croatia, said that cigarette smuggling is well planned, well organized and a low risk activity, which provides significant material gain for criminal organisations. Therefore, according to Grabar, joint cooperation of custom services and other law enforcement bodies and timely exchange of information are only possible solutions to the problem.

Kent Brown, Vice President for Corporate Affairs at JTI, emphasized that illicit trade cheats everyone: governments, consumers and legitimate businesses. “Illicit Trade is a problem that governments can’t solve alone. JTI takes an active role in helping governments, regulators and law enforcers by sharing information and developing specific programs. Letter of Intent JTI signed with SELEC demonstrates our willingness to do whatever is possible to fight black tobacco market” – concluded Brown.