Ten million cigarettes seized (archive image)
Photo: Henning Kaiser / dpa
The district court of Kleve has sentenced twelve men to two and a half years in prison in connection with one of the largest illegal cigarette factories ever discovered in Germany.
They were found guilty of tax evasion, tax stealing and violation of trademark law or aiding and abetting.
"You were part of a highly criminal company that can certainly be attributed to organized crime," said the presiding judge.
The men are responsible for tax losses running into the millions.
Overall, the tax damage caused by illegal cigarettes in Europe runs into billions and is a major problem.
Ten million cigarettes seized
With production costs of less than one euro per pack, the profit margins can be equated with those of the drug trade, according to the judge.
Unfortunately, the backers and smuggling routes remained in the dark.
Ten million cigarettes had been seized in the illegal factory in Kranenburg on the German-Dutch border.
According to information from customs investigators, the facility discovered in Kranenburg had produced ten million cigarettes a week.
The twelve men, aged 28 to 60, had been on trial since February.
bbr / dpa