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Written Answers - Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 367.  Deputy Derek Keating Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  his response and that of An Garda Síochána to the report that as much as 18% of cigarettes smoked here last year were illegally imported; his views that the smuggling of tobacco products is on par with illegal drugs such as heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6513/12]

[488]Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Deputy will be aware that law enforcement in relation to the smuggling of tobacco products and the sale of illicit or counterfeit tobacco products within the State is primarily a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. While it has not been possible to identify the specific report to which the Deputy refers, the Revenue authorities have informed me that a survey commissioned in 2009 by the Revenue Commissioners and the Office of Tobacco Control estimated that 20% of cigarettes consumed in the State had not been taxed in this jurisdiction. This figure was further broken down as 14% illicit product and 6% legal purchases by passengers arriving into the State from other jurisdictions. A similar study in the last quarter of 2010 was consistent with these estimates and I understand that a further survey is currently underway.

There is a close working relationship in place between the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners and An Garda Síochána in tackling this form of criminality. Searches are regularly undertaken by the Gardaí as part of intelligence-led operations led by Revenue. An Garda Síochána also continue, on district and divisional levels to target those involved in the sale and distribution of illegal products, at markets and via door-to-door sales. It is difficult to establish a comparative basis in relation to the smuggling of controlled drugs and the smuggling of tobacco products. This is mainly due to the fact that in contrast to controlled drugs such as heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis, there is a legal domestic market for the consumption of tobacco products and the smuggling of tobacco products involves the criminal evasion of a commodity tax, a tax from which the Exchequer benefits. Furthermore, given the covert nature of the illegal importation of both controlled drugs and tobacco it would be extremely difficult to draw any comparison between the overall volumes of each substance being trafficked into the State.


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