Despite the suspected smuggling operation placing a major strain on resources, Sweden is obliged to stop the consignments before they reach the Norwegian border.
“We have seen a large increase of these kinds of cases lately,” said judge Sverker Tell of the Uddevalla district court to local paper Bohusläningen.
The smugglers, twenty of whom in the last two weeks have come from Poland, are driving minivans filled to the brim with thousands of litres of alcohol and cigarettes believed to be bound for the Norwegian black market, according to the paper.
“We have no proof that they are headed for Norway. They don’t really want to talk when we apprehend them,” said Anders Ragnesten at the Uddevalla police.
However, several indicators suggest Norway is the destination for the heavily loaded buses. With an increased tax on alcohol, raised by 7 percent in 2011 and 2 per cent at the beginning of 2012 there is a market for cheap booze coming in through Sweden from Poland.
Just last week, seven people were detained in the Swedish town Ljungskile with two vehicles packed with tobacco and spirits. According to the paper, the local court is being kept busy trying to deal with the cases.
This means an added stress on the Swedish authorities, as the smugglers have to be kept in custody in Sweden pending the investigation. A convicted smuggler will then be sentenced to between three and six months in prison, depending on the size of the consignment.
Although the smugglers are almost certainly headed for Norway, the Swedish police can’t just let them pass through and tip off their Norwegian counterparts.
“One might think that this should happen, but at the same time it is the duty of the police to act when a crime is being committed, so we can’t just let it be,” said Tell to the paper.
According to the police, the smuggling route represents organized crime on a large scale. One of the reasons the police are stopping so many more people is that they have learned how the smugglers operate.
“Police are active and know what to look for. These are big bulky shipments, they are not easy to camouflage,” said Ragnesten to the paper.