Four Pilots Detained and Two Others Wanted in a Cigarette Smuggling Case with Aircrafts

Four Pilots Detained and Two Others Wanted in a Cigarette Smuggling Case with Aircrafts
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18 September 2021 | 19:02

On September 14, an AN-2 plane full of smuggled cigarettes, heading for Romania, was captured by the border police in Edineț, while flying in the airspace of Moldova. At the same time, the representatives of the Border Police noted that the police found a vehicle with fuel for the aircraft, as well as a tractor on the spot. It was later revealed that the airplane was used to carry smuggled cigarettes. It took off from Ukraine and its final destination was the neighboring country, Romania. The Border Police published photos from the moment of detention.

According to Daniel Martnos, deputy head of the Border Police, the police tried to detain six people in total. Three pilots who were on board, two citizens of Ukraine and one of the Republic of Belarus, were detained on the spot; two others fled, and the fourth pilot, a citizen of Ukraine, was detained at the hotel. The Border Police claim that a criminal case was initiated under two articles, for unauthorized flight of airspace and for illegal crossing of the state border.

“Three persons (pilots) were detained on the spot, and two managed to escape. Another pilot was detained at the hotel. Three of them are citizens of Ukraine and one of Belarus. Two citizens of Ukraine tried to escape. They are currently on the international wanted list. We opened a criminal case under two articles, one for unauthorized flight and the other for illegal border crossing. Searches were carried out yesterday. We can’t go into details. The airplane was on the ground when it was detained. (…) Colleagues from Romania are to share with what they found in this case. According to the primary information, it’s a case of smuggling. The aircraft is not legally registered in Ukraine,” said Daniel Martnos, deputy head of the Border Police.

AIRCRAFT USED TO CARRY SMUGGLED CIGARETTES

“A task force was alerted and there were carried out searches. Then the colleagues from the National Police, as well as the authorities, were informed about an unauthorized aircraft flight in the airspace. I spoke with Sergei Daineko, the head of the Ukrainian border police. Subsequently, we undertook investigative steps. (…) I was in direct contact with all state institutions,” said Rosian Vasiloi, the head of the Border Police.

According to Romanian press reports, on the night of September 13-14, the aircraft landed in Suceava County, Romania, to leave about 100 cases of smuggled cigarettes, after which it took off and flew again through the Romanian airspace, then it entered Moldova, where it was detained when it stopped for refueling. The Ukrainian Border Guard Service published footage of the AN-2 aircraft capture, full of smuggled cigarettes and with three Ukrainian citizens.

THE PHENOMENON OF SMUGGLING IS GROWING

The Europol Union in Romania calls the Supreme Council of National Defense for intervention after the Moldovan authorities announced that an AN-2 plane, loaded with smuggled cigarettes, entered the Romanian airspace and then took off and flew again through the airspace of Romania, and entered Moldova.

In a message posted on Facebook, the European Police Union explains that “despite their fighting smuggling, border guards have no powers to stop such planes.”

“No war started nor did the Russians attack us; it is just an AN-2 plane, packed with about 100 cigarette cases, which allegedly flew over the Romanian airspace, where, according to the Moldovan authorities that did not provide accurate information, it unloaded the smuggled goods. It’s not the only case. In August, another AN-2 plane of some Ukrainian smugglers got into the Romanian airspace in the Suceava area. This is proof that they are doing their best to smuggle cigarettes into Romania, which brings smugglers a profit of millions of euros. This is a serious problem and belongs to the sphere of national security, and the Supreme Council of National Defense must intervene immediately, given that the Romanian airspace is violated by foreign aircrafts, and this is not an isolated case,” the statement reads.

In this context, the Europol Trade Union states that “smugglers use all sorts of tricks, such as flying at low altitude, below 100 meters, so that radars cannot spot these aircrafts… The phenomenon of smuggling has grown lately. Last year alone, as a result of anti-smuggling actions, they detained more than 56,000,000 cigarettes (280,000 cases) and more than 20,000 kilograms of loose tobacco, which is the equivalent of more than 29,000,000 cigarettes or 145,000 cigarette cases,” said representatives of the Europol Trade Union.

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