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Investigations reporter Bob Wylie
"The anti-smuggling operation linked the haul to a powerful mafia clan"
 real 28k

Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 20:16 GMT 21:16 UK
Mafia smuggling plan thwarted
The cigarettes were hidden in cardboard bales
Customs and Excise officials say they have thwarted a plan by part of the Italian mafia to smuggle contraband cigarettes into Scotland.

The extent of the operation was revealed as 53-year-old Michele Ianetta was sentenced to two years in prison at Falkirk Sheriff Court for smuggling more than two million cigarettes into Scotland and evading customs duties of more than 250,000.

Ianetta's solicitor told the court his client thought he was importing cardboard for pizza boxes, not millions of contraband cigarettes.

Cigarette prices continue to rise
But the customs operation linked the smuggling to organised crime in the Naples area of Italy, with involvement from the Camorra mafia clan.

The notorious Neapolitan family has a long history of involvement in contraband cigarettes and drug smuggling.

The last stage of the eight-month customs operation involved tracking the container-load of millions of cigarettes, carefully concealed inside bales of cardboard.

The cigarettes came from Montenegro, in Yugoslavia, to Naples.

The pick-up point was outside Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, and from there, the cigarettes were transported via Hull to Falkirk.

If the load had been successfully sold it would have been worth more than 250,000 on the black market.

David Odd
David Odd: Made mafia link
David Odd of Customs and Excise said he was in no doubt there was big-time mafia involvement.

He said: "The Camorra clan in Naples were looking to smuggle cigarettes into Scotland.

"In particular they were looking at Falkirk. This was an attempt by the mafia to bring contraband cigarettes into Scotland."

Ianetta ran a second-hand furniture business near Falkirk town centre.

He hid the contraband at a container depot about a mile away from his store.

Lucrative business

The cigarette smuggling business has become more and more profitable in recent years.

In the recent budget, 25 pence was added to the cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes, though there is little evidence that price increases stop people smoking.

This has led to greater amounts of contraband appearing on the market, with smugglers who are caught facing far shorter sentences than those caught smuggling drugs.

Fiona Barrett of the Tobacco Alliance said: "One in four cigarettes is smuggled.

"The government has admitted to losing 2.5bn, though the figure could probably be nearer 3bn."

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21 Mar 00 | Budget2000
Cigarettes up 25p a packet
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