A crackdown by Revenue Commissioners is responsible for huge volumes now being seized, Finance Minister Michael Noonan told the Dáil.
In relation to tobacco seizures, he attributed the successful detections to a combination of intense screening of packages, cargo and vehicles entering the country and to high levels of intelligence sharing with international counterparts and the European Anti-Fraud Office.
“Revenue enforcement officers also target this illicit trade at the post-importation level by carrying out intelligence-based operations and random checks at retail outlets, markets and private and commercial premises.
“Considerable success has been achieved in combating the illegal trade in tobacco products. In 2010 and 2011 seizures of cigarettes were, respectively, 178.4m and 109.1m.
“Seizures of other tobacco products in those years were 3,367kg (2010) and 11,158kg (2011). Seizures to date in 2012 amount to more than 91m cigarettes and more than 4,000kg of tobacco,” the minister said.
Up to the end of October, there were 52 convictions for tobacco smuggling, resulting in fines of €88,550 and 22 custodial sentences, six of which were suspended. There was also 60 convictions connected with the sale or keeping for sale of unstamped tobacco products. Those resulted in fines of €106,300 and 22 custodial sentences, 14 of which were suspended.
In relation to illegal fuel, the minister told the Dáil a cross-border taskforce had targeted a number of gangs involved in the laundering and distribution of the fuel.
“In 2012, to the end of October, 11 laundries were detected and shut down and 199,000 litres of oil were seized, along with 28 vehicles and five trailers,” he said. “There were 10 arrests in the course of those operations.”
The Government is also attempting to enhance control and supervision at all stages of the fuel supply chain. Mr Noonan said there has to be a strengthening of the licensing arrangements for businesses selling auto-fuel, and of the enforcement of licensing requirements.
“There were 32 premises closed in 2011 for trading without a licence or for breach of licence conditions, and a further 49 have been closed to the end of October this year,” he said.
“In addition, new licensing requirements are in force since Oct 1 for anyone dealing in marked fuels.
“As well as these important licensing changes, there will be a requirement, as and from Jan 1, 2013, for all fuel traders to make electronic monthly returns to Revenue on their fuel transactions.
This will facilitate Revenue in detecting unusual or anomalous patterns of activity.”
Finally, in relation to counterfeit goods Mr Noonan said up to the end of September, 76,800 items, with an estimated value of more than €3.7m, were seized.