Romanian police have arrested an elusive and notorious cigarette smuggler accused of running a major ring from Eastern Europe to the UK, France and Italy where contraband cigarettes were sold for a huge profit.
Police said they took Cosmin Mladin into custody in Bucharest on Friday shortly after a court ruled he could be put under preventive arrest pending an investigation into cigarette smuggling and money laundering.
Mr Mladin, who has managed to avoid detention, appeared unexpectedly with another member of the organized crime group at a court hearing ruling on his arrest.
Police detained the pair outside the courthouse. They will be kept in custody for 30 days, Digi24 reported.
His arrest came a week after Romanian police and the anti-crime prosecutors unit, DIICOT, carried out 157 searches in the western county of Arad and across Romania.
They failed to find the crime boss and his deputy. Some 90 people were taken for questioning, of which 70 were in Bucharest. Police officers were also involved, according to sources.
The organized crime gang had about 100 people specialized in cigarette smuggling and money laundering.
Police said the organized crime group was established in 2017 in Arad.
It includes a cross-border component, which takes advantage of the significant market price differences for cigarettes from Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Serbia.
The group managed to evade customs control and sold the cigarettes in Romania and other Western European countries.
Cigarettes were transported from Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Serbia and loaded on to trucks belonging to transport companies controlled by the group’s partners in the three countries.
The cigarettes were hidden among wooden panels or pasta, or in some cases the trucks were declared empty on entry to Romania.
After entering Romania, the cigarettes were transported to warehouses and unloaded by members of the group.
Some were sold in Romania and others were hidden among auto parts and taken to Britain, Germany, France and Italy.
British police say the value of unpaid tax from cigarettes they have seized is around 10 million pounds.