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Police bust cigarette smuggling ring

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Police bust cigarette smuggling ring
Sniffer dogs helped find the cigarettes. File photo: APA/POLIZEI
08:57 CET+01:00
Customs officials in the city of Graz have arrested five cigarette smugglers responsible for smuggling about 1.3 million cigarettes from Serbia to Austria.

Investigators first caught their trail when a car with a Croatian number plate was pulled over during a routine inspection in Spielfeld in Styria in November 2014, where over 60,000 cigarettes of foreign origin were found in custom-made cavities in the vehicle.

The Customs Office said in a press release on Wednesday that the five suspects were from Hungary, Austria and Serbia, and aged between 35 and 50.

Subsequent investigations led to the international smuggling ring. A raid in Vienna led to a Hungarian supplier and an Austrian buyer being busted during a sale.

The Hungarian was found to have 65,300 cigarettes hidden in his car, and both men were arrested.

Police then searched five houses in the Vienna, where large amounts of cigarettes and cash were found. Sniffer dogs found around 12,400 cigarettes hidden in a kitchen and another 27,400 in basements. They arrested another Austrian and two Serbs.

Authorities seized nine vehicles used to transport the cigarettes, and weapons including a shotgun and knuckle dusters.

The total loss for the Austrian taxpayer through the illegal cigarettes is about €250,000, authorities said. The offenders face up to five years in prison, and up to €1 million in fines or compensation.

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