RIGA, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Demolition works began in Riga Central Market on Tuesday in a bid to flush out an undying "cigarette mafia" from the marketplace, local media reported.
The Latvian capital city's government ordered the demolition of several dozen reportedly illegal vendors' booths after investigative journalists from Latvian public television carried out an undercover operation last year, infiltrating into the illicit cigarette dealers' ring that has been operating in the market area for years and exposing their close links to the market's security and managers.
A major police crackdown on the illegal cigarette dealers at the marketplace in November resulted in several arrests and seizure of not only cigarettes but also weapons, ammunition and cash.
The raids focused on one particular company, Tirdzniecibas Nams Latgales Priekspilseta, which was suspected of involvement in the illegal trade, police said at that time.
The city council decided to terminate the company's lease agreement as of January 14, 2020, but the tenant showed no intention to remove its installations from the market area.
On Tuesday morning, a demolition firm hired by the local authority moved in, accompanied by police, to pull down the 25 illegal vendor booths. The demolition works at the market should be finished by March, the authorities said.
Riga mayor Olegs Burovs said that the local government will work with the law enforcement authorities to eradicate trade in illicit cigarettes in Riga Central Market and the area where the vendor's booths are being taken down will be turned into a public square as part of the Rail Baltica railway project.