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Illegal cigarette factory raided in northern Taiwan

Police seize 3,000 kg of low-quality tobacco, equivalent to 246,000 cigarettes

Police raid illegal cigarette factory in Taoyuan. (Police photo)

Police raid illegal cigarette factory in Taoyuan. (Police photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Police raided an illicit cigarette factory in Taoyuan, PTS reported on Wednesday (Nov. 1).

The 3rd Special Police Corps raided a sheet metal warehouse, seizing large bags of tobacco to be transformed into illegal cigarettes. Police said the batch of tobacco scraps was legally imported from Vietnam by a suspect surnamed Tang (唐).

It was supposed to be used as fertilizer and insect repellent, but it was instead sold for the production of low-quality cigarettes. "The importer knew that this low-quality tobacco waste was intended to be used for agricultural purposes as fertilizer and actually supplied it to this illicit factory to make low-quality cigarettes," said 3d Special Police Corps Chen Jian-hsun (陳建勳).

A police investigation revealed that in April 2023, a father surnamed Cheng (鄭) and his son opened two illicit cigarette factories in Taoyuan’s Pingzhen and Guishan. The sales channels for the finished products included night markets, flea markets, and other places where foreign laborers congregated.

Illegal cigarette factory raided in northern Taiwan
Tobacco scraps used for agricultural fertilizer are illegally used to make cigarettes. (Police photo)

The price of a finished pack of these illicit cigarettes was between NT$30-40, or one-third that of legal cigarettes. However, these illegal cigarettes are higher than legal standards when it comes to tar and nicotine, potentially posing a health risk.

“Illegal cigarette factories and warehouses have been set up in many hidden locations in the Taoyuan area. This is the first time we have seen small equipment being used, making these operations highly mobile,” said Chen.

The estimated market value of these illegal cigarettes was estimated at NT$25 million (US$770,000), with some NT$13.8 million in taxes potentially avoided. The case has been transferred to the Taoyuan City Department of Finance for disciplinary action on suspicion of violating the Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act, with a maximum fine of NT$10 million.