MORE than 100 phone calls have been made to a new cigarette smuggling hotline.
The Revenue Commissioners set the line up to receive information on the booming illicit cigarette trade in markets, workplaces, local shops and estates.
A Revenue spokeswoman said that since the confidential freephone number was launched at the end of July, they had received 113 calls. She said the information was passed on to the relevant district for investigation.
When the hotline was launched, Revenue chiefs said that 127 million cigarettes had been seized so far this year, which was “well ahead of the trend figure”.
Figures released at the time suggested that crime gangs sold 40 million packets of cigarettes last year, worth in the region of €160m.
A report by the state watchdog last week said that Revenue lacked a high-level strategy to combat the trade and questioned what impact the seizures were having on the overall illicit trade.
The C&AG report said that Revenue was finding it more difficult to detect cigarette trafficking as crime gangs were increasingly using legitimate companies as cover.
The Revenue spokeswoman said cigarette smuggling was part of an “overall strategy in relation to tax and duty compliance”.
She said they were reviewing policies with a view to “increasing the impact of Revenue activity against the smuggling of tobacco products”.
She said Revenue was researching detection equipment for bulk cargoes, as the two X-ray scanners could only be used on containers.
Methods which could be used to examine bulk loads in ships include vertical scanners, she said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved