Customs agents in Ben Gurion airport prevented the attempted smuggling of 1,130 packets of cigarettes into Israel. The import tax on the cigarettes is approximately 250,000 NIS.
The cigarettes were hidden inside the suitcases of two families of new immigrants (olim) from Georgia. The mastermind behind the smuggling attempt, Israeli resident Michael Pich’hadza, was arrested and then released on bail pending trial.
Pich’hadza allegedly came to Israel with two other travellers. When the other two passed through the green line at customs in the airport, they had their bags searched. Upon opening their bags, customs agents found them overstuffed with cigarette cartons. The two were immediately taken in for questioning by customs agents at the airport, and admitted that Pich’hadza had asked them to take the bags for him, but claimed they did not know what was in them. Pich’hadza also admitted that the bags were his, and that he asked the two immigrants to take the bags thinking that they wouldn’t be checked because they are new immigrants.
After further investigation it was discovered that Pich’hadza had asked the immigrants to write the bags under their own names so that he wouldn’t have to pay overweight fees. They did so in order to help him.
Yossi Ben Yaish, head of the customs department at the airport, vowed to severely punish the perpetrator.
“We have recently had a significant increase in the amount of apprehensions of smuggled cigarettes at the airport. We are therefore enforcing a very strict punishment which includes official indictments against the smugglers,” he said.