During three days Kaliningrad was a platform for the discussion of topical issues in the sphere of customs law infringement control. The heads of the Customs law enforcement departments of Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Estonia arrived in the Amber Land at the invitation of the Federal Customs Service of the Russian Federation.

Such a meeting is held in Kaliningrad for the second time and, as explained by Alexander Vasiliev, Head of the Russian delegation, Deputy Head of the Federal Customs Service of Russia, it may become an annual event.

The most part of the meeting was devoted to the topic of counteraction against the illegal tobacco products turnover. The representatives of delegations exchanged the information regarding the detection by the Customs Authorities of facts of the illegal cigarette transit across the border. The colleagues shared information about the most interesting cases of concealment of counterfeit goods and spoke about successful operations, which resulted in the disclosure of criminal schemes used by unscrupulous citizens. Practically all the participants expressed the idea that the problem of the cigarette smuggling is very incisive. It has also become international. “Today the share of illegal cigarettes in the world market is about 11% or 50 billion pieces”, said Mr. Vasiliev. He also added that the economy suffered damages in the amount of 40 billion dollars.

The representatives of foreign delegations gave some data that helped to describe the problem. Thus, according to Mr. Yuri Brytkov, Deputy Chairman of the State Customs Committee of the Republic of Belarus, in the year 2012, 14.5 million cigarettes were exempted at the attempt to transport them illegally across the border of Belarus. Head of the Ukrainian delegation, Mr. Alexander Popivnyak, told that last year the customs authorities of Ukraine detained about 500 million cigarettes. Mr. Mantas Kaushilas, Director of the Criminal Service of the Lithuanian Customs Department, reported that today approximately one third of the total volume of cigarettes in the country is of an illegal origin. In 2010 this figure reached 42%. As explained by Mr. Janis Boroviks, Deputy Director of Customs Criminal Investigation Department of the State Revenue Service of Latvia, and Mr. Ryan Kuus, Head of the Investigation Division of the Tax and Customs Department of Estonia, these Baltic countries have got a somewhat smaller illegal tobacco market, i.e. about 20%, what corresponds to 128 million cigarettes and 400 million cigarettes respectively. However, the problem is still burning, since this market is growing from year to year. Mr. Peter Walczak, Head of the Anti-Crime Division of the Customs, Excise and Gambling Control Department of the Ministry of Finance of Poland, pointed out that the Polish Customs Service works efficiently. In the year 2012, customs officers detained a little less than 1.5 billion cigarettes at the border and inland.

The participants of the meeting also exchanged the information, regarding the trends that have been traced in the domain of the illegal tobacco product transfer in recent years. As it turned out, the largest number of cigarettes is exported in relatively small batches by cars in each of the countries, though there are cases of larger scale smuggling detection. For example, the Lithuanian Customs Service representatives told about an interesting case from their experience, when customs officers practically in the center of Vilnius  fished out of the river Neris 100 cigarette boxes (what corresponds to1million pieces) drifting on wooden rafts. Having checked the river upstream, they found two more batches of 60 and 70 boxes that were drifting in the same manner. Latvian smugglers are also ingenious. As it was explained by Mr. Janis Boroviks, his subordinate customs authorities used to detain cigarettes (5 million pieces) even in a molasses tank, as well as in barrels of chemicals. Mr. Peter Walczak informed the participants about a new trend that has recently appeared in Poland, i.e. more frequent cases of clandestine manufacturing of cigarettes. To combat this trend, the excise tax on tobacco has been introduced since January 1, 2013, in Poland. Nevertheless, according to the Polish representative, attempts of the tobacco product illegal import by sea are practically not detected now, though not so long ago this way was very popular among lawbreakers.

Summing up the formal part of the meeting, its participants pointed out that a closer cooperation in the information exchange domain is required to increase the efficiency of the illegal tobacco product trafficking control and to protect the economic interests of the states. Moreover, the results of the field work will be considerable if the focus is made on suppression of organized smuggling channels.

At the end of negotiations, the meeting attendants were invited to get acquainted with the facilities of the law enforcement unit of the Kaliningrad Regional Customs. Head of the Customs office, Mr. Alexander Kotschnov, organized a tour for the guests and demonstrated the custom equipment samples, i.e. special vehicles, river and marine customs boats, a mobile laboratory, and a mobile inspection complex. Officers of the Cynological Department demonstrated the level of training of tracker dogs. The four-legged companions successfully completed instructions, found storage places of cigarettes and drugs hidden in a vehicle, luggage and clothes of a person. As it was explained by the guests, they were deeply impressed by the SWAT mastership. The staff was drilling the elements of martial arts, smashed heavy and even burning objects installed on the bodies of fellow soldiers. But the most impressive part was the release of hostages from a bus that was accompanied by explosions and a rapid combat assault.