Balkan Insight on 20th December published a special report saying that a factory in Albania is churning out millions of allegedly ‘counterfeit’ cigarettes a year, despite a criminal investigation prompted by British customs intelligence.  It reports the controversial activities of a cigarette factory with a 50-strong workforce quietly churning out millions of cigarettes in packs bearing the profile of the last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt – Cleopatra.  Cleopatra is the most popular brand of cigarette in Egypt and one of the world’s top sellers.  It says that the factory signed a new deal in 2017 with the BVI-based Eques Holding Group to produce up to 175 million pack a year, according to a contract obtained by reporters.  The company is owned by a Iraqi businessman, Faris Al-Rifai, and boasts a licence to use the Cleopatra brand in the EU and Albania, obtained from another BVI company, Worldwide Spirits Supply.  The packs say in Arabic script, ‘Made in Egypt by Eastern Company S.A.E.’, and are emblazoned with Egyptian health warnings.  The Albania Tabak factory has been under the ownership of the Jashari family since December 2010, and the father, Ilir Jashari was convicted of drug trafficking in Italy in June 2010 and in 2016 transferred to an Albanian prison and released in 2017.  The report says that Worldwide Spirits is owned by another company called Middle East Tobacco Co (METCO) based in Cyprus.

Author: raytodd2017

Chartered Legal Executive and former senior manager with Isle of Man Customs and Excise, where I was (amongst other things) Sanctions Officer (for UN/EU sanctions), Export Licensing Officer and Manager of the Legal-Library & Collectorate Support Section

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