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Tuesday 21.01.2020 | Name days: Agne, Agnese, Agnija
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Central market’s «cigarette mafia»: trade turnover estimated around EUR 5.6 million

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 Aizliegtais paņēmiens, contraband cigarettes, search, Riga Central Market, State PoliceContraband cigarettes are sold at Riga Central Market in at least ten illegal trade locations, as reported by LTV programme Aizliegtais paņēmiens.

The programme uncovered illegal cigarette trading locations by having a journalist «infiltrate» the market. At first the journalist sold clothes and observed everything from the side. Then the journalist earned the trust of illegal cigarette traders and became part of the «cigarette mafia».

The programme found out that every location, some of which have a front as clothes stores, has its own chief and largely trade locations are controlled by Armenians – the market has a well-organized ‘cigarette mafia’.

A single illegal cigarette store sells 70 to 120 blocks if cigarettes. On good days, sales of a single such location reach EUR 2 000.

The programme reports that there is a scheme in place to ensure a large number of cigarettes does not remain at illegal stores at the end of the day. Cigarettes are distributed differently among small kiosks: one stores blocks behind closed doors, another has only a couple of blocks, and another has only cigarette packs.

Aizliegtais paņēmiens notes that such a scheme is used specifically to minimize the loss of illegal cigarettes in the event of police raid. Cigarettes are delivered from some warehouse to Riga’s centre – cars park a little bit further from the market itself (police have already figured out when and where to expect them). Instead cars park near the central building of the University of Latvia or LU Faculty of Law.

The programme also found out that the biggest cigarette warehouses are located near Erebuni restaurant on Deglavas street and near Deglava business centre on the opposite side of the street.

The average wage of a cigarette trader is near EUR 2 000 a month. The wage of a boss of such a trade location nears EUR 13 000, the programme reports.

Traders are not afraid of State Police and often work even if police officers are present at the market. Aizliegtais paņēmiens notes that police cannot apply anything worse than an administrative fine, which is not enough to make illegal traders worry.

Nearly all traders have been applied with fines worth several thousand euros in total, the fines of some of them have already reached EUR 15 000 to EUR 20 000. The minimal fine is EUR 70, whereas the maximum is EUR 700. However, none of them worry about fines and have no intention of paying up. It is also not possible to enforce from them because they have no legal income or property.

Security officers of the central market say they cannot outcompete illegal trade, saying it is the State Police’s responsibility, because they have «greater power». Some cigarette trader says sometimes security staff take away cigarettes and money. When asked if they hand over the goods and money to authorities or keep for themselves, he said both.

Read also: Search at Riga Central Market: firearms, ammunition and EUR 40 560 in cash found

Some illegal cigarette traders claim some market security guards collect money from traders – something around EUR 50 a day. It is also necessary to supply guards with 40 blocks of cigarettes worth EUR 800 every month.

The programme estimates the value of contraband cigarette turnover at Riga Central Market around EUR 5.6 million.

No taxes are paid from this activity. Aizliegtais paņēmiens has calculated that the amount of lost excise tax from ten kiosks at the market may be EUR 500 000, lost VAT is around EUR 1.7 million. There is also the lost PIT, which is also estimated around EUR 4 million.


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