Secret cigarette factories, ATMs of criminal organizations

A very ordinary warehouse: no windows, several layers of paint on the walls and drums. Only tobacco bags and filters betray its business name: the manufacture of contraband cigarettes.

It was in the city of Poincy, Seine-et-Marne, with a population of 750, that customs in December 2021 canceled a secret cigarette factory for the first time in France. The location is discreet, connected to major highways and close to Paris. Customs officers found machines there in perfect condition: blowing, mixing, grinding and packing in blister packs.

Working eight hours a day, customs intelligence estimates that these factories earned 7 million euros in three months.

Garbage bags full of tobacco scraps, rolls of paper, and sticky boxes testify to past activity. On hollowed-out pallets, stacks of black and white cardboard boards: “Smoking kills” cut across the pattern of the packages.

Since this “first”, two more secret workshops have been discovered: a bottling area at La Longueville (North) and a storage area again at Poincy.

The proceeds whet the appetite of criminal organizations seeking to diversify, often specializing in drugs. “Production cost is one euro per package, the rest is margin”cites Christophe Perruaux, director of the financial forensics service (SEJF), responsible for two of Poincy’s cases.

From Eastern Europe, the Baltic countries to the Balkans, criminal organizations control tobacco smuggling. Factories that were previously established in Ukraine, and then in Poland, began to take root near our borders, especially in Belgium.

They are now based in France, where the black market accounts for about 30% of tobacco in circulation, and live with the desire to bring production and consumption closer together to optimize transport costs.

“The secret factory works for a maximum of three months”, emphasizes Florian Colas, head of customs intelligence. Its production lines produce an average of 700 packs per minute and 4,200 cartridges per hour.

“Each car costs between 50,000 and 200,000 euros, you pay them off in a few days and the margin rates are amazing”continues Mr. Kolas.

Organizations usually import old scrap cars from Poland, Bulgaria or Moldova, where there are many legal tobacco factories.

Customs data estimates that operating eight hours a day, these factories bring in between €80,000 and €120,000 per day for their operators, or €7 million over three months.

The demolition of the second factory in Poincy in September was prompted by customs information about a discharge at the site of an insulation company in an industrial zone.

The Aulnay-sous-Bois and Rungis brigades went there at dawn and encountered four men unloading large wooden crates from a truck. Machines for making cigarettes inside.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *