Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Suspected smugglers flying ultralight detained by Ukraine police

Jun 13, 2007, 10:35 GMT


Kiev - Three men suspected of using an ultra-light aircraft to smuggle cigarettes from Ukraine into Hungary were detained Wednesday by border police, the Interfax news agency reported.

Officers stationed in the mountainous Mukachevo region of west Ukraine first became aware alerted after 'detecting a suspicious noise in the sky at 4 am.'

Border troops searching roads and fields near the village of Yanush halted a Ford automobile and a GAZ minibus, which carrying three Ukrainian nationals including a registered pilot.

The GAZ-66 also contained a disassembled ultra-light aircraft and eight cases of NEXT cigarettes with an estimated value of 9,000 dollars on Ukraine's black market. The smokes are projected to be worth two to three times that in Hungary, according to the report.

The pilot, a Crimean resident, admitted to police that he was in the air in the morning, explaining that he enjoyed flying in the dark. He denied using the ultra-light for smuggling.

Police said that 'operational information' - a Ukrainian law enforcement euphemism for data obtained from informants or eavesdropping - contradicted the pilot's claim of innocence.

The pilot was charged with illegal border crossing, and all three detainees with smuggling cigarettes. Police seized the vehicles, aircraft and cigarettes.

Smuggling is rampant along Ukraine's rugged western border, where the economies of whole villages depend on illicit movement of goods to and from neighbouring European Union members Poland and Hungary.

The most valuable trafficked goods according to Interpol reports are illegal migrants, cigarettes, narcotics and petrol.

Smugglers commonly use motor vehicles or passenger rail cars to move products, often with the complicity of corrupt officials.

A tightening of border controls on both sides of the frontier in recent years has cause traffickers to transport their goods by increasingly imaginative means including on foot, by pack animal or in small boats - and, now, ultra-light aircraft.

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300th Only in Ukraine... post - woo hoo!

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