His gloved hands thick with coal dust, the customs guard pulls out a carton of Classics cigarettes and drops it to the floor. Reaching into the coal scuttle, another pack follows and another, until the floor of the carriage is soon a mess of coal and smuggled cigarettes.
The guard and his colleagues are searching the train looking for contraband goods, unscrewing ceiling boards and walls, removing curtain rails and searching the coal scuttles at the end of each carriage. They will make other discoveries before the Prague-bound train is allowed to move on.
At the Ukrainian-Polish border town of Przemysl, the seizure of 4,500 cigarettes hardly solicits a reaction. The border guards know the discovery will barely impact on one of Europe's fastest-growing forms of organised crime.
For criminal gangs from the Mafia to the Triads, cigarette smuggling is the new cash cow, and governments, companies and taxpayers are suffering the consequences.
Europe's growing addiction to cigarette smuggling is burning a £7bn hole in the pockets of governments in western Europe through lost tax revenues, and leaving companies including UK-listed British American Tobacco (BAT) and Imperial Tobacco nursing some £600m in lost sales each year.
While the problem starts in many of the former Soviet-bloc countries and other parts of the developing world, the effects are being felt on streets across the UK.
The illegal import of cigarettes that are either produced in counterfeit factories or legally purchased in low tax jurisdictions and smuggled into Britain is growing by the day and tobacco industry insiders question how it will ever be stopped.
Criminal gangs are using increasingly creative means to flood Britain with smuggled packs of Marlboro, Superkings or Lambert & Butler, or eastern European brands such as Classics or Jin Ling.
This month it emerged that children in the north east of England are being recruited to act as mules on smuggling missions. Seduced by the offer of cut-price air tickets and spending money, teenagers are flying to low-duty countries to fill their suitcases with cigarettes, returning to Britain to pass them on to criminal gangs.
Four schoolgirls aged 15 and 16 who live near Durham narrowly avoided jail after being caught smuggling 200,000 cigarettes into Britain.
Meanwhile, in April, HMRC investigators discovered £70m-worth of cigarettes in south London smuggled into the country in empty computer towers and air conditioning units. Documents with the smuggled cigarettes suggested the towers and units were to be filled with money to pay for the cigarettes and returned to the Balkans.
In the UK, the cost of tobacco smuggling to the exchequer was estimated by HMRC to run to £2.6bn in the 2006/7 financial year, while losses for retailers, wholesalers and distributors are thought to run to £230m annually and £191m for the manufacturers.
As the recession rocks the UK, demand for low-cost cigarettes is growing, driven by the dominant view that this is a victimless crime. However, tobacco industry insiders and customs officials suggest it is anything but.
"The same groups who are making money by smuggling guns, people, narcotics and counterfeit medical products are the ones who are smuggling cigarettes. From the Mafia or Triads to terrorist groups," says a head of one big tobacco company's anti-smuggling unit.
The attraction for criminal gangs is that the profits on offer are similar to those made by trafficking drugs, but the penalties are significantly less punitive.
Experts claim a container of 450,000 premium packets of cigarettes transported from Ukraine and sold on the streets of Britain will turn a £1m profit. Similarly, a typical white van filled with smuggled cigarettes will turn a £60,000 profit, while a car load gives £6,000.
"In most cases, if caught, smugglers will often only have their vehicles seized, so it is pretty low risk," says the anti-smuggling head.
But while Britain is the profitable endgame for many smugglers, Poland is the European epicentre.
"Poland is the turnstile of Europe when it comes to cigarette smuggling," says one senior investigator at a tobacco company. "It is the transit country between East and West."
So far this year some 400m cigarettes have been seized by customs officials in Poland, compared to 565m in the whole of last year. That is up from 425m in 2005 and 470m in 2006. "Poland is the first line of defence when it comes to the battle against smuggling," says Bogdan Bednarski, a senior expert in the Polish customs enforcement department. "We stop perhaps 10pc of what is coming in, but smuggling and illegal cigarette production in Poland are both on the rise."
Bednarski's estimate of seizure rates is seen as optimistic by many in the industry, some of whom put the figure at between 3pc and 5pc. That suggests between 12bn and 20bn cigarettes are smuggled into the country. Meanwhile, a total of 30bn cigarettes are thought to be smuggled out of Ukraine each year.
Cigarette companies have received some of the blame, with critics arguing that the "Big 4" – Philip Morris, Japan Tobacco, BAT and Imperial – over-produce in Ukraine, knowing their products will be smuggled elsewhere. Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco agreed in 2004 to pay a combined $1.65bn (£1bn) to the European Union and member states amid allegations they were involved in smuggling. However, recent signs suggest the cigarette manufacturers are now taking a different approach.
Poland's smuggling problem dates back to 2004 when the country joined the EU, since when the government has been raising tobacco duty levels to meet EU targets – twice this year alone.
However, higher duties in Poland have only heightened the disparity with taxes and tobacco sale prices in neighbouring countries such as Ukraine and Russia.
A pack of premium brand cigarettes sells for nine zlotys (£1.93) in Poland. Meanwhile, a pack will sell for 6.8 hryvnia (50p) across the border in Ukraine but for 4.5 zlotys after it has been smuggled into Poland. The benefits are clear to see.
That has persuaded criminal gangs and Polish nationals living near the border to exploit the difference by smuggling.
At the main vehicle and pedestrian border crossing near Przemysl, a bar on the Polish side acts as a base for gang members who buy cigarettes from smugglers. They are then deposited in secret warehouses before being channelled to local markets or to more profitable EU countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
Hano Tomasz, deputy director of customs for the region, says an average of 2,000 pedestrians, 1,000 cars and 130 lorries pass through the Przemysl border point each day. Officials typically confiscate about 20,000 cigarettes every 24 hours.
While the situation is grave, it is a far cry from the situation last year. Then, Tomasz explains, 10,000 pedestrians were crossing each day, the majority for the sole purpose of smuggling.
On the Ukrainian side of the border, the "ants", as they are known, would line up at booths to buy cigarettes, before cramming their vehicles or holdalls with cartons.
A decision in December 2008 to reduce the maximum number of cigarettes individuals are allowed to take across the border from 200 to 40 helped radically change the status quo but it also provoked uproar in Przemysl.
For many in the town, where the unemployment rate is 17pc, smuggling had been a socially acceptable trade. The decision to change the limit spelt an end to many people's "careers", resulting in mass protests at the border. Tomasz says more than 300 people blocked the border crossing, allowing no one to cross for three days and prompting the police to send out riot officers to deal with the situation.
"Ten people were arrested. It was a very unpleasant time for the customs officers," says Tomasz. "The protesters threatened us, saying they knew where we lived or they knew our children. One officer's car was destroyed; another officer was beaten at a bar and ended up in hospital."
While seizures have since declined dramatically at the border point, justifying the government's decision to change the import limits, overall smuggling levels continue to grow.
"It is like a bubble," says the senior tobacco company investigator. "You squeeze it in one place and the problem just grows somewhere else."
Success in reducing the numbers of ants smuggling each day has simply led to the growth of bigger consignments transported across the border and on into Europe via lorries or trains.
In June local customs officials discovered 60,000 packets of cigarettes sealed in bricks on a train from Kiev. Other recent finds have included cigarettes hidden in rolls of toilet paper, salads bags or even baked in loaves of bread.
Counterfeit cigarette production is also growing. Polish authorities have raided five illegal factories so far this year, each producing as many as 500m cigarettes a year.
The problem is especially concerning because of the low quality of many of the products. Seized cigarettes have been found to contain worms, arsenic or rat poison. Outside one factory, officials found large piles of cow dung which was being used to fill out the cigarettes.
Counterfeit production offers criminal gangs greater profits – double that of smuggling – and control of supply, but the problem remains small in Poland compared to non-duty paid smuggling because the risks are far higher. It costs around $2.5m to set up a counterfeit factory and a successful raid can see a gang's profits go up in smoke. Smuggling entails few of those risks.
"The effort to catch smugglers is huge but the penalties are mostly administrative, simply fines. For bigger seizures over 100,000 cigarettes, sentences can be tougher but judges are reluctant to jail smugglers," says Bednarski. "It is frustrating."
However, given the quantities of cigarettes many gangs are smuggling, they are increasingly using drug trafficking means to smuggle cigarettes, say experts.
"Artificial floors and ceilings are being installed in cars, foil is being used to escape x-ray detection, and postal or cargo transport is being used to reduce the risk for smugglers," says the investigator.
Drug trafficking also includes bribery of officials and Tomasz is doing his best to stamp down on corruption at the Przemysl border point. Two years ago, 70 customs guards were arrested at the crossing for alleged involvement in a smuggling ring.
"The temptation is very great and criminal organisations work hard to find people who will collaborate with them," says Tomasz, who has helped to set up a hotline to encourage locals to report corruption.
The Polish government is also trying to combat the problem by raising salaries for border guards. Wages are set to rise 30pc over the next three years, having not previously been increased for a decade. Custom guards will also be incentivised to make seizures, while a new law being introduced in Poland will allow officials working in mobile customs units to carry arms for the first time.
Officials are also looking to technology to try to crack down on the problem. Bednarski is hopeful of receiving government funding to buy x-ray machines so that lorries and trains can be scanned at the border. However, at 10m zloty each, technology comes at a price. The customs official is desperate to bring in the machines before a new train line from China to Germany opens.
"Once the line opens, the situation will get worse. Then you will see not only cigarettes but counterfeit handbags, medical products and clothing," he warns.
Against that backdrop, is Bednarski able to stay upbeat? "As a customs man I am glad that there will be work to keep us busy, but that is the only positive," he says, with a wry smile.