“Cigarette smuggling for greenhorns”: Recent patterns of illegal tobacco trade in the Czech Republic

Abstract

One of the countries impacted to a lesser degree by the illegal trade in tobacco products is the Czech Republic. Recently the proportion of counterfeit or smuggled cigarettes declined by approximately 3 % of the market while decentralisation and fragmentation are the main processes underlining the black trade in tobacco products. In spite of this, the illegal sector in the CR has taken on country-specific characteristics attributable to geographic location, and these have also significantly impacted domestic distribution. Until 2014 there was no existing official, expert, or scientific dataset focused on the black market in tobacco and on its actors and their relationships. This study is the first to report comprehensively on the form taken by black-market trade in tobacco products in the Czech Republic. The main objective of the study is to uncover the dominant patterns of the illegal tobacco market structure, the modus operandi of the distribution chain and financial management of the trade. The paper is based on the analysis of official documents, interviews with security experts, and interviews with those involved in criminal activity centred on tobacco products.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The data for this study was collected throughout 2014 under the Financing of Organized Crime Activities (FINOCA). Under the FINOCA project, the data analysis was published, after some modification, in the Financing of Organized Criminal Activities study published by Center for the Study of Democracy in 2015 (pp. 312–320).

  2. 2.

    The FINOCA study was implemented as a joint project of the Center for the Study of Democracy, the University of Trento and Teesside University and in close collaboration with the State National Security Agency in Bulgaria, the State Police in Latvia and the French National Institute for Advanced Studies in Security and Justice. The key objective of the project consisted in understanding the financial aspects of the organized crime cocaine trade, black market tobacco products and organized tax fraud. To meet this objective, a study was undertaken in several EU countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Great Britain).

  3. 3.

    Four individuals of this sample group will be directly cited in the analytical section. To ensure a greater clarity, we indicate their positions and abbreviations depicting these positions: a member of the Legal Department of the Customs Administration of the CR (SE1), members of the Department for Combating Smuggling of the Customs Administration of the CR ČR I + II (SE2, SE3), trader-smuggler (C1).

  4. 4.

    Ant-smuggling picked up steam in the CR in the first half of the 1990s. This period is described by Jana Lorencová (2012), a Czech investigative journalist as follows: “Polish prevailed in the Czech Cieszyn market. Every Pole bought bottles with alcohol at the market stands and rushed to the other end of the bridge to Polish Cieszyn. There, empty crates stood at the ready for the contents of the bags and the customers immediately returned to the market. This was their job from the early morning hours until late evening.”

  5. 5.

    “Vekslák” (pl. “veksláci”) is a term used in the socialist Czechoslovakia for persons who, in the late 1970s and early 1980s illegally exchanged Czechoslovak crowns for foreign currencies or sold goods unavailable in the official commercial network. In all socialist countries, “Veksláci” were part of the so-called second economy, informal business relationships that originated outside the reach of the then official institutions (Hajdáková 2013: 78, Kupka and Šmíd 2012: 35).

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Correspondence to Petr Kupka.

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Conflict of interest disclosure

The data for this study were partially collected throughout 2014 under the Financing of Organized Crime Activities (FINOCA). Under the FINOCA project, the data analysis was published, after some modification, in the Financing of Organized Criminal Activities study published by Center for the Study of Democracy in 2015 (pp. 312–320).

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Kupka, P., Tvrdá, K. “Cigarette smuggling for greenhorns”: Recent patterns of illegal tobacco trade in the Czech Republic. Trends Organ Crim 19, 218–235 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12117-016-9276-1

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Keywords

  • Illegal tobacco trade
  • Cigarette smuggling
  • Cross-border crime
  • Czech Republic
  • Central Europe