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Written Answers - Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 159.  Deputy Michael Creed Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed  asked the Minister for Finance Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan  his proposals, if any, to increase the judicial penalties on conviction for illicit trade in tobacco as recommended by the advisory group for small business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23709/12]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan The penalties for the smuggling of tobacco products are laid down in section 119 of the Finance Act 2001, and those for the illegal sale of unstamped tobacco products are contained in section 78 of the Finance Act 2005. Where a conviction under section 119 of the 2001 Act occurs following a summary prosecution, the fine that may be imposed is €5,000. A Court may also impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, either instead of, or in addition to, the fine. For convictions following prosecution on indictment, the fine is an amount not exceeding €126,970 or, where the value of the tobacco products involved in the offence is greater than €250,000, not exceeding three times the value of the products. The Court may also impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, as an alternative, or in addition, to the fine.

In the case of a conviction under section 78 of the 2005 Act following a summary prosecution, a Court may impose a fine of €5,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, or both. The penalty following conviction on indictment is a fine not exceeding €126,970 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or both a fine and a prison term.

The specific penalty to be imposed in any particular case is a matter for the Courts. Section 130(2) of the 2001 Act permits a trial judge, in his or her discretion, to mitigate a fine incurred for an offence under excise law, provided that the amount mitigated is not greater than 50 per cent of the amount of the fine.

The fines for excise offences have been increased in recent years: those that apply in the event of a conviction on indictment were increased substantially by the Finance Act 2010, with the amount of €126,970 replacing the previous amount of €12, 695. There are no proposals for further increases in the penalties at present, but the position will be kept under review taking account, among other considerations, of practical experience of the operation of the increased fines provided for in the 2010 Act.

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