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MP decries illegal tobacco trade

Akel MP Irene Charalambidou told the House Watchdog Committee that there exists a ring of illicit tobacco traffickers involving known members of the Cyprus elite.

Charalambidou criticised state authorities for lack of co-ordination between relevant departments and claimed these cases are handled in a particularly compromising way.

Speaking before the Watchdog Committee on Tuesday, Charalambidou said the man who was a key suspect in the case of illegal tobacco imports, which made headlines in 2009, is also involved in the record tobacco haul in Aradippou in October 2015.

In October, police raided a warehouse in Aradippou and found hauls of illegal tobacco worth €2million in unpaid taxes. Six people –including what investigators suspect is a Cypriot operations manager– were arrested in the joint operation between the customs officers and police.

Police later raided more warehouses – being run by a bogus company – seizing more illegal tobacco. The overall seizure has come to just under 20 tonnes making it the biggest haul ever recorded on the island.

Charalambidou had then spoken of a “cover-up” because the company owner had yet to be found while she also questioned why the foreign workers at the factory have all been deported from Cyprus.

The Cyprus Customs and Excise Department had denied all accusations.

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