‘Diaper mafia’ hits and runs to border

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Disposable diapers are one of the few items that are cheaper in Norway than in other countries, and that’s resulted in what some retailers claim is a rising trend of apparently organized raids on their supplies. They believe a “diaper mafia” is systematically buying up all their packages of diapers, and transporting them out of the country for sale at a profit.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

This road leading to Norway’s border crossing into Russia, east of Kirkenes, is among those that’s become a popular route for the so-called “diaper mafia.” PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

“Disposable diapers in Norwegian stores are actually the cheapest in all of Europe,” Jan Paul Bjørkøy, chief executive of the Kiwi discount grocery store in Norway, told newspaper Dagbladet this week. He attributes the relatively low prices to strong competition for diaper customers among the large grocery store chains.

Even though many of them are owned by the retail/wholesale giant NorgesGruppen, which dominates the market in Norway, diaper prices are pressed down to lure parents of small children into their stores. “This competition began in 2000 and we have no plans to drop out of it,” Bjørkøy said.

While Russians driving over the border into Northern Norway have long stocked up on cheap diapers at stores in towns like Kirkenes, the low diaper prices have clearly come to the attention other non-Norwegians. Stores like Kiwi and arch-rival Rema 1000 regularly see foreign customers sweep their shelves for diapers, to the point where some stores are now placing limits on how many packages customers are allowed to buy. One Rema 1000 store in Oslo is now refusing to sell diapers to repeat customers they recognize as only buying diapers, in order to maintain enough supplies for local parents who may have a desperate need for them.

It’s not illegal to buy items in Norway and take them out of the country, but all value over NOK 5,000 is supposed to be declared. Customs officials in Nord-Trondelag, not far from the border to Sweden, seized a cargo of diapers found in a vehicle that was valued at NOK 44,000.

More nappies were nabbed in a vehicle heading for a border crossing to Russia, where the diapers were found in hidden compartments. “We only found diapers in the car, and they were probably hidden to avoid customs duties in Russia,” Thor Johansen of the customs region for Northern Norway told Dagbladet.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund