A European network for the sale of counterfeit cigarettes involving more than 400,000 cartridges has been dismantled, leading to the arrest of eleven people in Belgium and one in Le Mans, the Rennes prosecutor's office announced on Friday in a press release.
Read also: Dismantling of a cigarette smuggling network in the west of France
Tuesday and Wednesday, an operation led by an investigating judge of the Specialized Interregional Jurisdiction (JIRS) of Rennes aimed to dismantle this network "
initially detected by the gendarmerie and customs of the agglomeration of Le Mans
", indicates Philippe Astruc, public prosecutor of Rennes. "
This European judicial and police cooperation
" has shown the existence of a global traffic "
of 456,000 cartons of cigarettes (45 million euros of market value) for the years 2020 and 2021, stored in hangars in Belgium
", according to the prosecutor. The merchandise was "
primarily intended for the Belgian, French, British and Dutch markets
". On the French side, the judicial investigation brought to light a distribution network of counterfeit cigarettes, started in 2018, by individuals of Chechen origin living in Le Mans. The latter have links "
with a Russian-speaking criminal structure with international influence, specialized in tobacco trafficking and located in Belgium
", underlines the prosecutor. During the searches, more than a million euros in cash, eleven vehicles, computer equipment, telephones, cardstock stamped with a brand of American cigarettes, intended for the making of the packages, as well as a hundred of counterfeit cartridges were seized.
Two suppliers of the Manceau dealer will be handed over to the French authorities while a third, a semi-wholesaler in Le Mans, was presented to an examining magistrate. Already sentenced to five years' imprisonment for acts of aid to stay and extortion with violence, the 55-year-old man was indicted in particular for criminal association with a view to preparing one or more offenses punishable by ten years' imprisonment and money laundering in an organized gang. He was remanded in custody, according to the same source.