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TACKLING cigarette smuggling was one topic high on the agenda of the international conference recently held at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 in China.
Algirdas Semeta, the EU Commissioner for Taxation, Customs Union, Anti-Fraud and Audit, visited World Expo to discuss trade between the EU and China. China is the EU’s second biggest trade partner after the USA, but it is also the source of increasing volumes of illegal trade, including tobacco.
The discussions between the EU Commission and China aimed at formulating the best means of halting illegal trade is most welcome. I hope these will go some way towards devising a means of stopping illicit tobacco trade across Europe and in particular in Ireland.
Here the illicit tobacco trade is one of the most serious crimes affecting retailers, the legitimate tobacco industry, the Government and law enforcement. This illicit trade resulted in an estimated loss of revenue to the Government of €556 million in 2009 alone. For Ireland ‘s retailers, it is estimated they lost approximately €692m in sales turnover as a result of the illicit tobacco trade. More startling is the fact that the illegal profits gained from the illicit trade in tobacco are being redirected into the pockets of organised crime gangs who in turn use these monies to fund further criminal activities.
We welcome the Department of Finance’s efforts to combat the illicit trade through the revision of the Finance Act and Customs & Excise must be praised for the substantial cigarette seizures made already this year.
However, a more joined-up approach is now needed. A national anti-illicit trade committee must be established. This committee should comprise of all stakeholders with a vested interest in combating the illicit tobacco trade for the benefit of all concerned. Only by working together can we ultimately halt the illicit tobacco trade in Ireland.
JTI Ireland Ltd
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