Slovak police have announced that a tunnel has been discovered running underneath the Slovak-Ukrainian border. It starts in the Ukrainian city of Uzhorod and comes out between the villages of Vyšné Nemecké and Nižné Nemecké. Police believe the tunnel, which descends about six metres, was used to smuggle tobacco products, and maybe even traffic people, from Ukraine to Slovakia.
At a press conference today (Thursday, July 19) Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, Finance Minister Peter Kažimír, Police President Tibor Gašpar and the head of Financial Administration Criminal Office, Jozef Luterán, jointly announced the discovery.
Kažimír said, as quoted by the SITA newswire, that the police had seized more than 13,000 cartons of cigarettes, and that in total the tunnel might have cost the state €50 million in unpaid excise tax. The find was the result of cooperation between the Financial Administration Criminal Office and the Police Corps, Kažimír said. He praised the collaboration with the Ukrainian authorities, which he described as “unprecedented”. He stressed that the tunnel might also have been used to traffic people, and its uncovering is crucial from the point of view of the re-evaluation of Slovakia’s membership of the Schengen zone, due next year.
Luterán said that the tunnel was well-constructed and that it required someone to be present on both sides simultaneously for it to work. He also revealed that it was built with technology used in mines and that it had timber supports. Gašpar said that the tunnel was 480 metres long on the Slovak side and ended in business premises where a truck would wait to load smuggled goods. According to Luterán, the suspects were able to fill a truck with cigarettes in two hours. On the Ukrainian side, the tunnel ended in a family house. Police detained one of the smugglers and a driver, but Gašpar stressed that more people must have been involved. “The team’s work continues; it can take one more week or two, and it is possible that more people will be charged,” Luterán said. The tunnel will be filled with concrete, Gašpar added.
Tax on cigarettes in Ukraine is considerably lower than in Slovakia or other EU countries, making east-west smuggling highly profitable.
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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