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Man charged with importing 19,000 contraband cigarettes

A court has denied bail to a man who was arrested yesterday after he failed to declare the 19,000 cigarettes at the airport

Matthew Agius
8 August 2017, 11:56am
The contraband cigarettes were found inside the passenger's hand luggage
The contraband cigarettes were found inside the passenger's hand luggage
A court has not granted bail to a Ukrainian man who was arrested at the airport yesterday after he failed to declare the 19,000 cigarettes he was bringing into Malta.

Inspector Antonovitch Muscat arraigned 38-year-old Ihor Klymenko, from Kiev, under arrest before magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech this morning, accusing him of a number of offences under the Customs Ordinance, the Excise Duty Act and the VAT Act.

The man had been stopped shortly after he arrived from Riga, Latvia at 2.00am on Monday morning. Customs officers at the airport had asked Klymenko to go through a luggage scan, after he opted to go through the ‘Nothing to Declare’ channel. 19,000 cigarettes were discovered in his luggage.

In all, 70 cartons of 200 NZ American Blend brand cigarettes and 250 packets of 20 cigarettes were seized from Klymenko. Had they been declared, the cigarettes would have been subject to €3,322 in excise duty, €317 in importation tax and €754 in VAT.

Lawyer Chris Chircop, legal aid to the accused, entered a plea of not guilty and requested bail.

Bail was objected to by the prosecution, however, with inspector Muscat explaining that the man had told police that he had planned to be in Malta for one week and had been residing in a hostel in Cospicua. “If he's released on bail, he will leave the islands for good.”

Despite the defence's request for bail on the grounds of the presumption of innocence, the court ruled that the man was a flight risk, in view of his complete lack of any ties to the islands. Klymenko was remanded in custody.

The importation of contraband cigarettes has been estimated at costing the economy up to €19,000,000 in lost tax.

In July a passenger was stopped at the airport with 120 cartons of undeclared cigarettes and just last Friday customs seized 7,400 contraband cigarettes, followed by another 4,540 of the same during the weekend.

Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...