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Greece's biggest illegal cigarette ring smashed

Kathimerini, Greece
Sept 2 2005

A criminal ring using immigrants to produce millions of contraband cigarettes in an underground factory near Thessaloniki has been broken, police said yesterday after arresting a suspected gang member.

The 35-year-old ethnic Greek from Armenia is thought to be one of at least 10 members of a ring employing Ukrainian and Moldovan immigrants, in rotating groups of 20, over the past six months in exchange for room and board.

He has been charged with forming a criminal organization, money laundering, forgery and customs violations.

Raids on the illegal factory and on two nearby warehouses unearthed more than 80 tons of tobacco and 2.3 million packs of contraband cigarettes, most bearing the forged logo of a well-known Greek brand.

The factory comprised state-of-the-art manufacturing and packaging machines, underground living quarters for staff and closed-circuit television, police said.

Officers described the operation as unprecedented in Greece.

Greek law bans Armenian Genocide denial

Yerevan Hails Greek Genocide Bill


Armenia on Wednesday praised the Greek parliament for passing a law that makes it a crime to deny the Jewish Holocaust, the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey and other crimes against humanity recognized by Greece.

“With this move Greece once again proved its commitment to universal values and took an important step towards preventing genocides and other crimes against humanity,” Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in a statement.

For his part, deputy parliament speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, an ethnic Greek, hailed the development in a phone call with a pro-Armenian member of Greece’s parliament, Apostolos Kaklamanis. Sharmazanov is also the chief spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia.

Greece is one of about two dozen states that have officially recognized the 1915 slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. It has also become the third country, after Switzerland and Slovakia, to criminalize genocide denial.

Acting on an appeal lodged by a Turkish nationalist politician, the European Court of Human Rights ruled last December that a corresponding Swiss law runs counter to freedom of expression and must be repealed. The Swiss government appealed against that ruling.

A similar law was passed by the French parliament only to be struck down by the country’s constitutional court in 2012.

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