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Cigarette smuggling ring linked to Belize busted in Guatemala

Posted: Thursday, December 21, 2017. 10:29 a.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: A major contraband cigarette smuggling ring involving Belize has been busted in Guatemala, according to a report from Guatemalan TV news station, Guatevision.

According to Guatevision, that country’s Public Ministry and National Civil Police conducted 35 raids to take down the smuggling ring. The report further adds that the cigarettes come directly from Belize, smuggled by sea to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala and then to El Salvador and Honduras. The cigarettes are trafficked using smuggling routes, avoiding tax and duty all the way.

The investigation, according to the report, found that from 2015 to 2016, the ring made at least 39 trips from Belize to Puerto Barrios, transporting approximately 500 boxes containing 5 million cigarettes on each trip.

The free zones in the north and west of Belize are major importers of cigarettes. It is also widely known that cigarettes are frequently smuggled into Mexico in the north as well but some also go south. In 2013, the BDF intercepted 1,300 cases at Jalacte destined for Puerto Barrios.

The investigation also revealed that there was collusion with smugglers by Guatemalan law enforcement agents. According to Guatevision, 24 key players have been arrested, including 5 Navy officers who stand accused of smuggling, conspiracy and money laundering.

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