On 9-10 November, the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) held the Annual Task Force Tobacco meeting in an online mode. Experts from law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Poland, and Romania, as well as SELEC, and OLAF, took part in this event. The business sector participated in the meeting as well, Ukrainian Tobacco Association “Ukrtutun”, KPMG International and the major cigarette producers providing their valuable insights on the matter.

There were two topical issues connected to the illicit tobacco products in the spotlight of the meeting, namely – cigarette smuggling and their illegal production. The Head of OLAF’s Sector Tobacco, Salvatore Catania provided the global overview on counterfeit cigarettes and the ways of tackling them. At the same time, Ukrainian and Moldovan law enforcers shared insights from their national perspective. In its turn, representatives from the EU agencies shared with their Ukrainian and Moldovan counterparts the most effective methods and ways of combatting illicit cigarette production. The business sector also presented its overview of the illicit cigarette markets in Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, showcasing the way they influence the European market of illegal tobacco products.

Vadym Melnyk, the Director of Bureau of Economic Security of Ukraine was a keynote speaker of the event. Mr. Melnyk acquainted the participants with the role of the newly created bureau in combatting cigarette-related frauds. He also raised problems and put forward proposals to limit the illicit trade in tobacco products. Debating on legislative aspect of combatting the illicit flow of tobacco products, the participants welcomed the Ukrainian initiative on criminalisation of smuggling.

In the course of the meeting, EUBAM shared the results of the Joint Border Control Operation “SCORPION II”, during which 8,5 million cigarettes were seized. The Task Force Tobacco highly appreciated the work EUBAM did, at the same time urging the Moldovan and Ukrainian responsible agencies to investigate the origins of certain cigarettes seized during the operation and take appropriate action.

“Despite undertaken legal and administrative measures, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, together with their neighbouring countries, are under continuous illicit tobacco pressure. This situation generates serious risk to border security, fuelling organized crime, stimulating corruption, affecting the economies of both states. Therefore, to combat this threat, initiatives like Task Force Tobacco are of the utmost importance,”

stated the chairman of the Task force Tobacco, the Head of the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine, General Slawomir Pichor.

The Task Force Tobacco was launched by EUBAM in 2010 to serve as a platform for combining national and international efforts to combat illicit tobacco products in the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.