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Irishman arrested in huge cigs scam probe

AN Irishman has been arrested in connection with an international tobacco smuggling ring.

Steve Russell (62), a successful Marbella-based businessman, is alleged to have run a complex criminal structure.

Russell is CEO of Cemsa, which was set up in 2001 and is based at Poligono Nueva Campana Nave 71, 29660 Nueva Andalucia, Malaga.

A Spanish police investigation launched last August alleges that Russell's business acted as a cover to import cigarettes tax-free in a scheme that saw monthly profits of more than €10m.


Luis Garcia, head of the Guardia Civil's Economic Crimes Group, which is leading the investigation, said Russell and 12 others had been charged with membership of a criminal organisation, money laundering and smuggling tobacco.

Shipping containers filled with Asian-manufactured cigarettes were brought into European ports such as Valencia, Antwerp and Lisbon.

African countries were used to cover the operation. Tobacco was also smuggled into Bulgaria.

A series of front companies were used to distribute the cigarettes once they was within EU borders. Only less well-known brands were marketed, to avoid sparking illegal sale alerts.