An 85-year-old German man received a fine of €345,000 in a French court on Thursday after being convicted of smuggling hundreds of kilos of tobacco.
The man, a resident of Weil-am-Rhein in southwest Germany, was stopped by police in eastern France in September 2020 with 776 kilos of rolling tobacco bought in Luxembourg in his van.
"We have never seen something like this - we call him the dean of smugglers", said a representative of customs authorities during the hearing on Thursday before the criminal court of Colmar.
The octogenarian, who was previously unknown to the courts, was sentenced to a 344,544 euro fine for "possession of manufactured tobacco without a regular supporting document", in accordance with the prosecution's request.
He had claimed to have acted on behalf of a company in exchange for a commission. But the man, in whose house 16,000 euros in cash were found, could well be implicated in a wider smuggling ring, according to German customs officials.
Between the beginning of 2017 and the end of 2020, an estimated 40 tonnes of rolling tobacco were illegally transported from Luxembourg to the United Kingdom and Ireland without paying taxes, according to the regional daily L'Alsace.
Investigations into the smuggling ring are continuing in France and Germany.