Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 234, 286, 287, 288 - Tobacco control measures [5921/13; 5917/13; 5918/13; 5919/13].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 234, 286, 287, 288 - Tobacco control measures [5921/13; 5917/13; 5918/13; 5919/13]. (05 Feb 2013)

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234. Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if the recent figures released by the Revenue Commissioners and reported in the media, which indicate that seizures of illicit tobacco have fallen by 56% in the past four years, is related to the reduction in the number of Gardaí working on this area of investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5921/13] 

286. Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if the recent figures released by the Revenue Commissioners and reported in the media, which indicate that seizures of illicit tobacco have fallen by 56% in the past four years, is related to the reduction in the number of staff working in the Customs Section of the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5917/13]
 
287. Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the overall staffing levels in the Customs Section of the Revenue Commissioners for each of the past five years; the number of staff in the Revenue Commissioners working to combat the illicit tobacco trade in each of the past five years; the impact of any reductions in staff numbers during this time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5918/13]
 
288. Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Finance in view of the reduction in the seizures of illegal cigarettes made by the Revenue Commissioners in recent years, the additional measures that will be undertaken to combat the illicit tobacco trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5919/13]
 

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 234, 286, 287 and 288 together.

 

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax and for tacking the illicit trade in tobacco products, that they attach a high priority to dealing with this criminal activity. Their “Strategy on Combating the Illicit Tobacco Trade (2011-2013) which is published on the Revenue website (www.revenue.ie ) includes a range of measures designed to complement each other in targeting the supply and demand sides of the market for illicit tobacco products.

 

This multi-faceted strategy includes ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of the problem, developing and sharing intelligence on national, EU and international basis, ongoing review of operational policies, development of analytics and detection technologies, and optimum deployment of resources at both point of importation and within the country to intercept and seize contraband products and to prosecute those involved.

 

Interception of illicit tobacco products is achieved through a combination of risk analysis, profiling, intelligence and the screening of cargo, vehicles, baggage and postal packages. Revenue officers also target the 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.

 

In carrying out this important work Revenue works in close cooperation with other relevant agencies, both nationally and internationally. There is extensive cooperation between Revenue and An Garda Síochána, and the agencies concerned in the State and in Northern Ireland work closely together, through a cross-border group on tobacco enforcement, to combat the organized crime groups that are responsible for a large proportion of the illegal tobacco market. In addition, cooperation takes place with other Revenue administrations and with the European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF, in the ongoing efforts to tackle the illicit trade in tobacco products at international level.

 

Considerable success has been achieved in combating the illegal trade. Details of the quantities of cigarettes seized each year since 2005 are set out in the following table.

 
Quantity of cigarettes seized (millions)
2005
51.3
2006
52.3
2007
74.5
2008
135.2
2009
218.5
2010
178.4
2011
109.1
2012
95.6

 

The quantity of cigarettes seized in a given year can be influenced significantly by the occurrence of a particularly large seizure or seizures. For example, the quantity of cigarettes seized in 2009 includes one seizure of some 120 million cigarettes that were uncovered on a vessel at Greenore, Co. Louth. This was the largest seizure of cigarettes ever recorded by any EU country, and it would be unrealistic to gauge the numbers of seizures in subsequent years by reference to this exceptional event.

 

Revenue is committed to ensuring that the highest possible levels of seizures of illicit products are achieved on an ongoing basis and will ensure that this work continues to have the high priority that has been accorded to it to date.

 

There has been considerable success also in detecting and prosecuting those involved in the illicit trade. In 2012, there were 57 convictions for tobacco smuggling, resulting in fines of €93,550 and 26 custodial sentences, 7 of which were suspended. There were, in addition, 75 convictions connected with the sale or keeping for sale of unstamped tobacco products, resulting in fines of €153,050 and 21 custodial sentences, 14 of which were suspended.

 

Revenue is conscious that those involved in the illegal trade in tobacco are constantly striving to avoid detection by seeking out new ways of smuggling the illicit product and putting it on the market, and that its own response needs to be agile and adaptive in combating this criminal activity to take account of this.

 

In relation to staff numbers I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, that they are a fully integrated tax and customs administration and that it is not possible to disaggregate resources deployed exclusively at any given time on customs work or on policing illegal cigarette smuggling. Revenue currently has approximately 2,000 staff engaged on activities that are dedicated to target and confront non-compliance. These front-line activities include anti-smuggling and anti-evasion, investigation and prosecution, audit, assurance checks, anti-avoidance, returns compliance and debt collection.

 

The Revenue Commissioners are subject to the Employment Control Framework staffing reductions imposed since 2009. Revenue’s overall staffing levels have reduced from a total of 6,581(FTE) at the end of 2008 to its current level of 5,745 (FTE). Notwithstanding this reduction, Revenue staff resources assigned to compliance activities have been maintained at around 2,000. The Revenue Commissioners have accorded a very high priority to the tackling of the illicit tobacco trade and they are committed to ensuring that despite the staff reductions that this enforcement work will continue to be resourced to the maximum extent possible. 

Dáil Éireann Debate
Unrevised
Tuesday, 5 February 2013

 

Item Type:Dail Debates
Source:Oireachtas
Date:5 February 2013
EndNote:View
Subjects:MM-MO Crime and law > Substance related offence > Drug offence > Illegal drug possession (seizures)
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland
B Substances > Tobacco (cigarette smoking) > Tobacco smoke (cigarette law / policy)
MM-MO Crime and law > Substance related offence > Tobacco offence

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