Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) have today expressed unease over the high number of illegal cigarettes seized by Revenue during the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year. An analysis of Revenue’s seizures by RAS revealed that there was an almost fivefold increase in cigarettes seized, from 6,659,500 (H1 2019) to 31,202,600 (H1 2020), indicating that Ireland continues to be a target for tobacco smugglers in spite of restrictions on travel.
Commenting, national spokesperson for RAS and Dublin based retailer, Benny Gilsenan said: “We commend and fully support the hard work undertaken by Revenue and An Garda Síochána in the fight against illicit trade. However, the smuggling of tobacco remains a significant concern to registered and legitimate tobacco retailers across Ireland, whose legal cigarette trade can account for 20 – 30 per cent of their business. The fact that over 31 million illegal cigarettes have been confiscated by Revenue during the first half of this year alone demonstrates that criminals continue to target Ireland and are adapting their methods in response to restrictions on personal travel by focusing their efforts on large consignments of smuggled products. It is just another indicator as to why it is becoming increasingly hard for legitimate retailers to compete with the black market.
“It demonstrates that while current travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have resulted in low levels of Non-Irish Duty Paid (NIDP) entering the market, it is clear that criminal enterprises are continuing to seek out ways of ensuring smuggled products enter the country. We believe that there is still more that can be done and that is why in our recent pe-budget submission to the Minister for Finance, RAS called for the detection and seizure of illegal tobacco products to remain a priority for Irish authorities, with increased awareness of the elaborate means criminal gangs are utilising to transport these huge volumes.”
In Revenue’s 2019 Annual Report, its Illegal Tobacco Products Research Surveys revealed that 15 per cent of cigarette packs held by smokers surveyed were classified as illegal. This represents a potential loss to the Exchequer of €242 million in 2019 on 24 million illegal cigarette packs. The same Revenue survey found that 12 per cent of the Roll Your Own tobacco packs held by smokers surveyed were illegal in 2019.
Mr Gilsenan added: “The increase in the number of cigarettes seized in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, and indeed compared to 2019 in total, indicates that an even greater number of cigarettes could potentially be making its way to the black market. This increase in the scale of the seizures highlights the importance of the work by Revenue and An Garda Síochána and the need for a continued focus on tackling illicit trade by the authorities. This criminality is directly affecting livelihoods and local retail businesses across the country who are already facing enormous pressures as a result of COVID-19.”
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