Cigarette contrabandists will lose their cars and assets
Confiscation of the untaxed tobacco products have raised greatly in the past five years despite drastic measures on ports and a blitz on stores and markets.
Approximately 200 million untaxed tobacco products intended for the illegal market, which would have sold at an expected loss to the Exchequer of close to €65m, are planned to be confiscated by the end of this year.
A three-year strategic plan aimed at untaxed tobacco products will see an increase in the number of Customs operations aiming people distributing cigarettes in shops, housing estates and under the shop’s counters.
Robert Hogan, the head of Custom’s Criminal Investigation Branch, stated that they planned to affect smugglers strongly next year.
He stated in an interview that there would be raised confiscations of both properties and cover loads, as legal goods are often smuggled into the country in the same transport containers as illegal cigarettes.
At present, if a person is stopped with untaxed tobacco products, they may take back their car or trailer after paying a fine.
“We practiced that in the past, because we do not have enough place and means to keep all vehicles. In the next year we will face an increase in the asset seizure. That means that we take the car and it won’t go back to the proprietor. Even if we have to spend more than €500 on crushing them, we will do that. In the proper sense of the word we are hitting them in the wallet; they do not receive the car back,” Mr. Talbot stated.
He also underlined that, from the next year, cover loads will also be confiscated to the State. The vehicles that can be crushed are those which carry illicit product to the shops or transporting an illegal load from a container to a house.
Mr. Talbot said that Ireland was apparently the most important target, because it was like a secret door to the UK.
The average price of a 20-pack of cigarettes in Ireland constitutes €8.55; this is more than 13 times the cost of a pack of cigarettes in Ukraine.
Customs that introduced a High Level Group to aim at tobacco also plan to raise the number of people prosecuted under the law.
In 2008, 85 people condemned of smuggling and distributing untaxed cigarettes, which increased to 165 in 2009.
Only 50 million cigarettes were confiscated in 2006 but this figure rose sharply to 218 million in 2009.
135 million counterfeit tobacco products were seized in 16 maritime containers brought from China, Russia and Thailand.
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