Cleopatra cigarettes were originally created as the local version of American Kent cigarettes.
In one of the more mind-boggling pieces of news you're likely to read this week, iconic Egyptian cigarette brand, Cleopatra, has allegedly been illegally-produced in state-run factory in Montenegro for several years, as reported by Balkan Insights.
According to a confidential correspondence acquired as part of investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism, ARIJ, warnings sent by officials in Cairo, Britain and the European Union over the years were consistently ignored by their Montenegrin counterparts.
The factory, Duvanski Kombinat Podgorica (DKP), denies any wrongdoing and claims that an unnamed offshore company contracted them to produce 8 billion individual cigarettes between 2010 and 2016 and presented them with a trademark registration.
The EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, suspects that the cigarettes were being smuggled through Libya and sold illegally across North Africa. Reports also suggest that the Montenegrin company had been producing Tunisian Mars 20, Algerian Rym and Libyan Rayadi.
Egypt managed to eventually halt production in 2016, after the company was privatised and put under new ownership. However, the BIRN/ARIJ investigation believes that the offshore firm that ran the factory hasn't quite given up and is said to be exploring the option of moving production to Kosovo and has already spent 1 million EU on a new operation in Montenegro.
Created by Eastern company S.A.E in 1961, Cleopatra cigarettes came to be when then Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, requested an Egyptian version of the smuggled American Kent cigarettes he so enjoyed.