CRIME gangs smuggling tonnes of illegal tobacco into the country are facing fines on average of just €527, shocking new figures have shown.
Last year alone, Customs officers intercepted a staggering 3.4 tonnes of tobacco and 178.3 million cigarettes worth €76.5 million.
It is estimated the illegal trade is depriving retailers of more than €500m of income per annum.
Despite the size of the problem only 94 people were prosecuted during 2010 for smuggling and fined a total of €49,630 with 13 being sent to jail.
Customs and Gardaí also managed to prosecute 40 people for selling illegal tobacco with six prison terms handed down along with fines of just €99,250.
Fine Gael’s Alan Shatter said the current legislation was inadequate at dealing with the threat.
“Criminal gangs know that if they are caught they are facing a slap on the wrist. The DPP should be more directly involved in this matter,” he said.
Meanwhile, 10 rhino horns were among the contraband items detected at Irish airports and seaports last year.
In figures released last night by the Revenue Commissioners, they confirm the horns were seized in three hauls at Shannon in January 2010, under an international convention called CITES.
The Customs figures show, overall at the three state airports, the value of drug seizures was dramatically down last year.
Some €1.7m worth of drugs was seized by officials at Dublin airport last year, compared with €4.6m in 2009. The detections included €1.1m worth of cocaine in 22 seizures, along with €436,600 worth of khat in 44 seizures.
The report shows an increased value in drug seizures at both Shannon and Cork airports. At Shannon, it was €572,883 compared with €258,704 in 2009 while the increase in value of drugs recovered at Cork airport was €180,134, compared with €72,550 in 2009.
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