Romania reached the fifth place in Europe for cigarettes smuggling in 2017, a position occupied in 2016 by Italy, a state with over 60 million inhabitants, according to a study on smuggling and its effects in Europe conducted by KPMG for the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think thank.

Smuggling networks sold more than 4.15 billion cigarettes in Romania in 2017, or almost 10 percent of the volumes trafficked across the European Union, Switzerland and Norway. Together, the top five countries for illegal smuggled cigarettes, including Romania, account for about two thirds (62 percent) of the black market in the EU, Norway and Switzerland – that is twice as much as the other 25 states analyzed together.

The RUSI study confirms that illicit cigarette smuggling is a low-risk activity with high benefits for transnational organized crime groups. Overall, financial losses across the European Union, Norway and Switzerland have exceeded EUR 10 billion, money that has funded criminal activities.

“In 2017, the average smuggling at the EU, Swiss and Norwegian level was 8.7 percent, or about half the level recorded in Romania in the same year. Our country is attractive for smugglers because of the 2,000-km border with non-EU states where cigarettes cost a third of the price in Romania. That is why it is absolutely necessary for the authorities to allocate all necessary resources to fight organized crime networks,” said Ileana Dumitru, director of Legal and Public Affairs of British American Tobacco Romania.

The report also shows that 8.7 percent of the total cigarettes consumed in Europe in 2016 were illegal – over 44.7 billion cigarettes. Ukraine, Belarus, Algeria and Moldova are the main identifiable sources of smuggling cigarettes at the level of the European Union, Norway and Switzerland.

The main countries of origin for smuggling cigarettes in Romania are Ukraine and Moldova, where cigarettes cost on average less than 1 euro. Among the top six countries most exposed to the illicit trafficking phenomenon, Romania recorded the smallest decrease in the volume of cigarettes consumed in the illicit market (0.26 billion cigarettes) compared to the previous year.

France and Poland recorded a decrease of 1.35 billion cigarettes, Italy a decrease of 0.94 billion cigarettes, and Germany recorded a decrease of 0.6 billion cigarettes.

Romania has the most expensive legal cigarettes in Eastern Europe, after Hungary (EUR 3.61), even without taking into account purchasing power. With an average price of EUR 3.31 euros per package, cigarettes in Romania are more expensive than in Poland (EUR 3.19), Slovakia (EUR 3.13), Bulgaria (EUR 2.55) or the Baltic countries (Estonia – EUR 3.24, Lithuania – EUR 2.99, Latvia – EUR 3.03), the report says.

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