Last night, we had dinner with a representative of a major leaf merchant who was too diplomatic to question our sanity but impressed on us to be very careful as we probe the black market. Apparently, manufacturing cigarettes is so lucrative that some Paraguayan tobacco executives drive armored cars to protect themselves against kidnapping—not the […]
Category: The Counterfeit Trail
I knew Santa Cruz had a sizable population of German heritage, but there’s something bizarre about speaking German with a tanned taxi driver while zipping past palm trees in balmy 32-degrees-Celsius (90 degrees F) weather in a very un-European landscape. Santa Cruz is said to have the world’s second-largest Octoberfest after Munich. Too bad it’s […]
While Paraguay obviously has the manufacturing capacity, it is not a major leaf-producing country. Where does it obtain its tobacco, and are leaf producers in a position to help curtail the illegal cigarette trade? To find out, we’ll travel to Santa Cruz do Sul, the largest tobacco-producing area in the region.
If you are looking for a bargain, Rio’s Centro Uruguaiana is the place to be. Normally expensive brand-name sneakers, faux designer purses and wristwatches sell at rock-bottom prices—as do cigarettes. Telling fake from real isn’t easy, however—even for the trained eye. That afternoon we present several cigarette packs purchased at Centro Uruguaiana to Dante Letti, […]
The insignia thief must have turned himself in, because we’re allowed off the plane. But while the flight attendant has her decorations back, we’re without luggage. It’s still in Miami, where we had a tight connection. Fortunately, there are two more Miami-Rio flights that day. The airline promises to deliver that afternoon. There’s something oddly […]
We haven’t even landed in Latin America yet, and we’re already being threatened with detention—not for investigating the counterfeit cigarette trade, but for theft. As the plane descends, a terse flight attendant announces that a pin and some other American Airlines insignia have disappeared from a cabin crew member’s uniform. If the decorations aren’t returned […]
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” The leaf merchant was not impressed with our suggestion to track down a cigarette counterfeiter in Paraguay and interview him for an upcoming article in Tobacco Reporter about the illicit tobacco trade. “You’ll never find one. And even if you do, they will kill you.” Good. That confirms […]