Smugglers caught in record seizure

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Police and customs agents in southeastern Norway managed to stop 14 specially built vehicles that were loaded with smuggled alcoholic beverages and tobacco on Sunday, but think others made it over the border and sped on into the country. The authorities were holding seven persons on Monday who were arrested in the seizure, which broke all records.

The vehicles contained 19,000 liters of beer, 1,763 liters of liquor and 321,820 cigarettes, officials at customs agency Tollvesenet told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). News bureau NTB reported that customs officials had never before seized so much contraband in such a short period of time, or in so many vehicles that were driving together along the E6 highway at Rygge, between the border and Oslo.

“This is absolutely a record seizure, with so many cars coming over the border during such a short period of time, and all with so much alcohol,” Wenche Fredriksen, chief of the customs station at Svinesund on the Swedish border, told NRK.

Fredriksen described the smuggling as “organized” and noted that there’s been an influx of smugglers from Poland caught in Norway in recent weeks. On Friday, for example, another van loaded with alcohol was caught at another border station in southern Norway, while a Polish man is charged with not only smuggling but also with causing a massive, fatal collision on the E18 highway west of Oslo last week. His vehicle was also tightly packed with alcohol and cigarettes, which are heavily taxed in Norway and thus expensive.

The alleged smugglers’ vehicles were all specially built with suspension systems able to carry such heavy loads without it looking like it’s over-burdened. All the cars stopped on Sunday had Polish and German license plates.

While seven persons were in custody on Monday, all of them citizens of Poland, it’s believed as many as nine fled the scene. Some ran into a nearby forest, and police were expecting more arrests. They also think other cars full of smuggled goods made it into Norway without being stopped.

All those arrested are being charged under Norway’s so-called “mafia” clause, which doubles their maximum sentence if the criminal offense is found to be part of an organized effort. The suspects face prison terms of up to two-and-a-half years.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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