Polish customs officials have seized at least 8 million cigarettes apparently destined for the British market in a coordinated sweep in two cities this week, the country's biggest such haul so far this year, an official said Wednesday. "Inside the containers, there were really over 4 million cigarettes," Arkadiusz Baredziak, a spokesman for Polish customs, said.
In one case, the smugglers were caught Tuesday at the Polish-German border crossing of Jedrzychowice-Ludwigsdorf. The truck they were driving had containers rigged with special lenses that produced an optical illusion that made them seem empty, said Arkadiusz Baredziak.
In a separate operation Wednesday, authorities seized another 4 million cigarettes in Radom, a city about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Warsaw.
The 8 million cigarettes are valued at around 8 million zloties (US$2.5 million; Ђ2 million).
Many of the packages' original Cyrillic labeling had been replaced with labels in English, leading police to believe they were destined for Britain, Baredziak said.
Polish internal security officers had been observing the suspected smuggling group for weeks and believe the two stockpiles belong to the same group of smugglers. Baredziak would not say where the suspects, who have been detained, were from.
The cigarettes, mostly low-quality Ukrainian-made, will be incinerated, he said.
Poland, a new member of the European Union, lies on the community's eastern border, and is under pressure to rein in smuggling from its poorer non-EU neighbors, Ukraine and Belarus.