Over 3 million cigarette packets seized from vessel in Istanbul
AA photoOver 3 million packages of smuggled cigarettes were seized during an operation on a Ukraine-flagged dry cargo vessel passing through Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait on July 14, the largest amount of cigarette packages ever seized on water.
The vessel carrying over 100 tons of cigarettes worth more than 28.5 million Turkish Liras was stopped by Turkish authorities on the Bosphorus upon a tracking operation initiated by received intelligence.
Istanbul Maritime Customs Enforcement teams began to track the vessel, which had left the Famagusta Port in Turkish Cyprus and was headed to Ukraine’s Skadovsk Port, as part of a wide-scale search after they received information that a consignment of smuggled cigarettes was expected to be carried out.
According to the tracking teams, the vessel first entered Turkish territorial waters and then reached Ukrainian territorial waters after passing through the Bosphorus. After receiving forged documents that it had unloaded its cargo in Ukraine, the ship headed back to Turkish territorial waters. While passing through the Bosphorus again and advancing toward the coast of Istanbul’s Küçükçekmece district, the ship’s crew was contacted by coastal security teams and the crew declared they had unloaded their cargo in Ukraine.
While carrying out a raid with the support of coastal security on the vessel off the Zeytinburnu district, the teams seized some 3.3 million packages of cigarettes weighing more than 100 tons.
Teams also detained six people on the vessel.
Recently some 5 million packages of smuggled cigarettes were found by gendarmerie teams during operations in the southeastern province of Hakkari.
The contraband cigarettes were found during raids conducted in villages in the province’s Yüksekova and Şemdinli districts.
The smugglers reportedly provided financial support to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with PKK militants levying “taxes” on smugglers carrying out these illegal activities on Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Iran.
A total of 385.8 million packages of smuggled cigarettes have been seized in operations conducted by the Turkish authorities since 2013, while 3,145 suspects have been arrested.