CRIMINAL gangs here are making about €3 million every week from the illegal cigarette trade, according to an Irish tobacco company.
PJ Carroll claims that organised crime is making a profit of €1.3m from every container of smuggled cigarettes.
PJ Carroll made the claims as its parent company, British American Tobacco, announced it was providing $200m (€134m) in funding to the European Commission over the next 20 years to combat the illicit trade.
“We estimate over a quarter of all cigarettes consumed in Ireland avoid paying Irish duty,” said Chloe Campen, corporate affairs manager with PJ Carroll.
“Criminals smuggling and selling cigarettes cheaply from street stalls, markets and door-to-door is endemic.”
She said massive amounts of tax were being lost and going straight into the pockets of gang bosses.
“We estimate the Government lost over €500m in revenue last year. At the same time we believe criminal gangs are making over €3m every week from their illicit tobacco trade.”
PJ Carroll, manufactures of Carrolls, Major and Rothmans, estimates that Irish retailers had lost over €500m in turnover from lost tobacco sales in 2009.
It estimates that 1.7 billion cigarettes smoked in Ireland last year were not legal cigarettes and no duties were paid on them.
Pj Carroll estimates this amounts to more than a quarter of all cigarettes consumed.
Ireland’s oldest cigarette manufacturer was commenting as British American Tobacco signed a co-operation agreement with the European Commission to tackle the smuggling trade.
“This agreement marks a significant step in strengthening co-operation in the fight against tobacco crime throughout the EU,” said Jack Bowles, director of the tobacco giant in west Europe.
He said the losses sustained by the EU and member states as a result of illicit tobacco run into billions of euro every year.
Customs figures show that 218m smuggled cigarettes were seized in 2009. This included 120m cigarettes at Greenore Port, Co Louth, last October, the largest ever seizure in the EU.
The total for 2008 was 135m. Almost 90m cigarettes had been seized to end of June this year.
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