SLOVAK police uncovered an illegal cigarette production in Moravský Svätý Ján, in western Slovakia. During a search of a former agriculture cooperative on February 15, customs officers and police detained nine Vietnamese workers operating illegal lines, the SITA newswire wrote.
The police knew of the workshop since its inception and had been monitoring it.
"The lines and technology were brought here in December," Bystrík Stanko, director of the Regional Directorate of the Police Corps in Trnava, said at a press conference on February 18. "In January, they assembled the lines and started a trial production. We were able to confiscate the first manufactured cigarettes."
The police charged three men - two Slovaks and one Vietnamese - with tax and insurance evasion and took them into custody. The excise tax evasion was calculated at Sk28.2 million (€0.86 million).
The search yielded 1.3 million cigarettes and 9.2 tonnes of tobacco. Another 3.6 million cigarettes were found in a warehouse in Malacky.
"We also confiscated two complete lines for cigarette production," said Jozef Dudáš, director of the Customs Criminal Office. "One was in full operation and the second was in a trial operation.
The production lines, including some parts duplicated from a Dutch facility were probably from Vietnam. Preliminary estimates suggest a production capacity of 50 packs of cigarettes per minute.
The tobacco came from Moldova. The counterfeit cigarettes had descriptions in French on them, so were destined for a French-speaking market.
The Vietnamese working the lines were Czech citizens. Four of them did not have any identification papers. The police handed all of them over to Border Police, who sent four to a facility in Medveďovo and deported four others to the Czech Republic.
The Vietnamese lived on the former agriculture cooperative and never left it, which is why nobody reported anything suspicious.
"We can call it a case of modern slavery," Dudáš said.
3. Mar 2008 at 0:00 | Compiled by Jana Liptáková from press reports