On Monday, a Romanian lorry driver was convicted of transporting smuggled cigarettes and tobacco in the truck he was driving from Belgium into France. The trucker claimed he had been forced to do so at gunpoint.
According to regional newspaper La Voix du Nord, the 57-year-old’s HGV was subject to an inspection on the motorway near Ghyvelde last week. Inside his truck, customs officials found 490kg of cigarettes and 1,272kg of hand-rolled tobacco.
The driver was not able to present any supporting evidence for the goods. Therefore, the customs officers considered the goods had been smuggled and the lorry driver was arrested.
During the court hearing, the trucker told the judge that he had been forced to transport the goods by the “Belgian or French Mafia” who had held him up at gunpoint:
Foreigners approached me in a parking lot in Belgium, asking me to add a few pallets to my load. They put a gun to my head and threatened to kill me. Then, two cars accompanied me throughout the trip. I thought it was the Belgian or French mafia.
The lorry driver’s version of events was nonetheless considered “absurd” by the prosecution, who stated that the Romanian driver knew exactly what he was carrying.
Going by the verdict, it appears the judge was not convinced by the trucker’s story either.
French customs asked the court to issue a fine of 695,000 euros, which is equal to the value of the goods smuggled. However, the fine was limited to one third of the value of the goods, which admittedly is still a whopping 235,000 euros.