Tobacco Underground

The world’s most widely smuggled legal substance

The illicit trafficking of tobacco is a multibillion-dollar business, fueling organized crime and corruption, robbing governments of needed tax money, and spurring addiction to a deadly product.

Video: the most pressing issues in tobacco smuggling

Sociologist Luk Joossens is one of the world’s top experts on tobacco smuggling. In 1995, he co-authored a paper that alerted the world about a striking disparity between cigarette exports and imports — that billions of cigarettes were missing and likely diverted to black markets in dozens of countries. Today, Joossens is one of six experts advising the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control — a global treaty to reduce tobacco use — on how to crack down on the booming underground trade in cigarettes.

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Video: A wholesaler lays out the local cigarette prices

Notorious as a haven for smugglers and money launderers, Kaliningrad, Russia, is not a place where it’s safe to ask many questions. In 2006, troops raided a local newspaper office that criticized the police for, among other things, protecting cigarette smugglers. In April 2008, ICIJ reporters went undercover to investigate the source of Europe’s “most disturbing” new development in contraband tobacco: Jin Ling cigarettes. Made in Kaliningrad by the Baltic Tobacco Factory, Jin Lings are flooding the black market across the European Union.

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Video: Jin Ling managers explain how the system works

Notorious as a haven for smugglers and money launderers, Kaliningrad, Russia, is not a place where it’s safe to ask many questions. In 2006, troops raided a local newspaper office that criticized the police for, among other things, protecting cigarette smugglers. In April 2008, ICIJ reporters went undercover to investigate the source of Europe’s “most disturbing” new development in contraband tobacco: Jin Ling cigarettes. Made in Kaliningrad by the Baltic Tobacco Factory, Jin Lings are flooding the black market across the European Union.

Read more about Video: Jin Ling managers explain how the system works

Video: Secret Tour inside the Baltic Tobacco Factory

Notorious as a haven for smugglers and money launderers, Kaliningrad, Russia, is not a place where it’s safe to ask many questions. In 2006, troops raided a local newspaper office that criticized the police for, among other things, protecting cigarette smugglers. In April 2008, ICIJ reporters went undercover to investigate the source of Europe’s “most disturbing” new development in contraband tobacco: Jin Ling cigarettes. Made in Kaliningrad by the Baltic Tobacco Factory, Jin Lings are flooding the black market across the European Union.

Read more about Video: Secret Tour inside the Baltic Tobacco Factory

Djukanovic’s Montenegro a family business

Montenegrins may have been surprised late last year to learn that the global financial crisis had arrived in their tiny Balkan country. Newspapers, the Internet, and even a James Bond film painted Montenegro as the Monte Carlo of Eastern Europe. The nation’s mountainous, tree-lined coast, medieval walled cities, and stone ruins set the scene for a boom in luxury hotels and private villas.

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Glossary of Tobacco Smuggling

Bootlegging: Often called “buttlegging,” bootlegging refers to the act of smuggling tobacco products from low-tax to high-tax jurisdictions for resale, generally by individuals or small groups.

Cigarette dumping: The practice of selling cigarettes below the price usually charged in a domestic market in order to establish brand dominance and gain competitive edge.

Contraband: Goods smuggled into or out of a country.

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