Smoking Out Smugglers



Colin McSeveny, Media Relations Manager, Smiths Detection


It took only a few weeks for Smiths Detection’s mobile cargo scanner to prove its worth to Luxembourg Customs in their relentless fight against smuggling. Exploiting its advanced “material discrimination” capability, the HCVM T uncovered a carefully concealed load of 12 million cigarettes in a truck stopped at a random inspection. The resulting €10M fine amounted to five times the value of the tax which would have been levied on the cargo had it been legally bound for the local and French markets. The incident highlights why the high-energy X-ray system is in great demand from customs authorities and governments around the world, particularly a country like Luxembourg – small, open-bordered and landlocked in the heart of Europe. The HCVM T’s non-intrusive but highly effective detection capabilities not only deter the movement of terrorist threats, such as weapons and explosives, but also act as a formidable cash generator for hardpressed governments. Aside from the tax raised by deterring excise avoidance on the likes of tobacco and alcohol, the scanners can quickly pay for themselves many times over through the hefty fines on perpetrators caught red-handed. Until recently, Luxembourg’s Customs and Excise relied mainly on traditional low-energy X-ray scanners installed at the country’s international Findel Airport. However, these systems are not designed to scan complete vehicles and their contents or to offer the level of steel penetration required to view densely packed loads. As a result, the authorities decided to invest in an HCVM T to carry out arbitrary roadside checks that could be quickly set up for a few hours and then moved on. The operational speed and random nature of the inspections give criminals little time to share surveillance information and greatly increase the successful prosecution rate. With a steel penetration of 320mm (12.5 inches), the system can scan up to 25 trucks per hour.

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