Crime

A New Black Market in South Florida Is About To Explode

Jeopardy time. This black market product costs governments worldwide $50 billion every year, fuels Hezbollah, the PKK and other terrorist cells and runs on global crime syndicates and hundreds of underground factories in China and Eastern Europe.

smokes.jpg
via Wikimedia Commons
Heroin, you say? Cocaine? Automatic weapons?

Try cigarettes. As Western countries hike taxes higher and higher to try to curb smoking, black-market, dirt-cheap smokes are flooding the markets.

Some are counterfeits, rolled out by the millions in filthy factories literally buried underground in southern China. Some are legit, smuggled from low-tax states like South Carolina to higher tax cities like New York, or from Latin American countries to the U.S.

Check out tomorrow's New Times for a cover story on Miami's black market cigarette trade -- and its surprising ties to a deadly European terrorist group. With Florida's cigarette taxes set to jump 300 percent starting tomorrow, experts say underground smokes are set to explode in the Sunshine State.

In the meantime, check out the excellent ongoing investigation into the global black market cigarette trade by the Center for Public Integrity. The group's latest report -- a rare look into China's counterfeiting industry -- just published this week.

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Tim Elfrink is an award-winning investigative reporter, the managing editor of the Miami New Times and the co-author of "Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era." Since 2008, he's written in-depth pieces on police corruption, fatal shootings and social justice issues across South Florida. He's won the George Polk Award and has been a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink