Coastal crime: smuggling and piracy in Skåne

Where there is money to be made from taxes, there is also money to be made from avoiding taxes, or assisting others in their avoidance…

For most of this century, Malmö has been labelled—unjustly, according to both locals and the more reliable statistical sources—as Sweden’s “crime city”. But Malmö may not even be the hottest spot for illegal activity in Skåne, let alone the whole country.

Historically speaking, Helsingborg has long been connected to the flow of illicit or untaxed goods—a role that goes back centuries, when it was one of the prime locations from which shipping in and out of the Öresund could be controlled. This role meant Helsingborg was a reliable source of taxes for whichever country it was currently part of; don’t forget that Skåne was for a long time part of Denmark! (The Skånian Separatist Movement certainly hasn’t forgotten… )

But where there is money to be made from taxes, there is also money to be made from avoiding taxes, or assisting others in their avoidance… and the sheer proximity of Helsingborg to its Danish sibling Helsingør have made it a tempting route for smugglers during periods when certain goods were banned or strongly taxed. Being a smaller port, and thus less well-surveilled, Helsingborg also had a role to play as an entrepôt for illegal goods from further afield—drugs, in particular—in the early years of the C21st

The Helsingborg köttbåt is an echo of this legacy of legislative dodges, and so is the regular ferry to Helsingør, given its profit margin has always relied more on duty-free booze than ticket prices. Smuggling of various sorts still persists along the whole of Skåne’s west coast, or so it is claimed—though it is hard to know how much. As a visitor, however, there’s not much to worry about; the main thing to bear in mind is to avoid any deal that seems too good to be true, particularly if it involves clandestine meetings or cash payments.

A rather more serious risk pertains further to the north, however, and gives rise to the following warning: never hang around on the more isolated bits of coastline between Hovs Hallar (on Bjärehalvön) and Kullaberg (west of Ängelholm) after dark, especially during winter. During warm summer days, this is a beautiful part of Skåne, with its tall cliffs, quaint little harbour towns and dramatic beach scenery (with important sites of cinematic history to boot). However, after dark in the overcast of the winter months when tourist pressure decreases, the area has become known as a smuggler’s den, with copper pirates using the natural caves of the coast line to load and unload the rare and pricey metal, which is shipped between Sweden and countries with a more lax approach to the provenance of industrial materials, where it is used to manufacture black market technology.

The smugglers and pirates often target copper-heavy machinery and infrastructure such as railway tracks, solar panels, wind power generators and air conditioner units. As such, we highly recommend you keep a watchful eye on your equipment and avoid leaving electric vehicles unattended for longer periods of time, especially if you are travelling around the northwestern part of Skåne. If you find that a vehicle belonging to you or anyone else has been tampered with, it is of critical importance that you report it to the authorities straight away and avoid utilising it until it has been repaired, as there is a significant risk of electrical malfunction or even electrocution. Copper theft from railway tracks also carries a risk of trains derailing, which could prove deadly for travelling passengers. Preventing copper theft is a matter of vigilance, and an important task for anybody visiting or living in Sweden!

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