Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 141 - Illegal tobacco trade [25529/13].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 141 - Illegal tobacco trade [25529/13]. (28 May 2013)

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141. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Finance his views on the fact that the illegal importation of tobacco is treated as a relatively minor offence; if a serious crackdown on criminals involved will be undertaken in view of the legislative penalties currently in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25529/13] 

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I would like to assure the Deputy that the illegal importation of tobacco is not treated as a relatively minor offence. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they view tobacco smuggling as a very serious matter, and that combating the illegal tobacco trade is, and will continue to be, a high priority for them. Their “Strategy on Combating the Illicit Tobacco trade (2011-2013) includes a wide range of measures that are designed to identify and target those engaged in the supply or sale of illicit tobacco products, with a view to seizing the illicit products and prosecuting those responsible. This multi-faceted strategy includes ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of the problem, developing and sharing intelligence on a national, EU and international basis, ongoing review of operational policies, the development of analytics and detection technologies, and ensuring optimum deployment of resources at both point of importation and within the country.


There is extensive cooperation with An Garda Síochána in combating the illicit trade, and the relevant agencies in the State also work closely with their counterparts in Northern Ireland, through a cross-border group on tobacco enforcement, to target the organised crime groups that are responsible for a large proportion of the illegal tobacco market.


Considerable success is being achieved against both the importation of illicit tobacco products and their sale within the country. Over 95 million cigarettes and more than 5 tonnes of tobacco were seized during 2012. In addition, there were 57 convictions for cigarette smuggling, resulting in the imposition of 26 custodial sentences, some suspended, and fines amounting to €93,550. Action against the illegal selling of cigarettes led to 75 convictions during the year, with 21 custodial sentences, some suspended, and total fines of €153,050.


The Revenue Commissioners assure me that they are committed to maintaining their extensive programme of action against all stages of the supply chain for illicit tobacco products, and that they will continue to make every effort to ensure that those involved in the illicit trade are brought to account before the Courts for their criminal activities. The penalties for smuggling tobacco products are laid down in section 119 of the Finance Act 2001, and penalties for the illegal sale of unstamped tobacco products are contained in section 78 of the Finance Act 2005.


Fines for tobacco offences under these acts were increased substantially in the Finance Act, 2010. On conviction following summary prosecution, under section 119 of the 2001 Act, a court may impose a fine of €5,000 and the court may also impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, instead of, or in addition to, the fine. For convictions following prosecution on indictment, the fine is an amount not exceeding €126,970 or, where the value of the tobacco products involved in the offence is greater than €250,000, not exceeding three times the value of the products. The Court may also impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, as an alternative to, or in addition to the fine.


In the case of a conviction under section 78 of the 2005 Act following a summary prosecution, a court may impose a fine of €5,000, or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, or both. The penalty following conviction on indictment is a fine not exceeding €126,970, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or both a fine and a prison term. The specific penalty to be imposed in any particular case is a matter for the courts. Section 130(2) of the 2001 Act permits a trial judge, in his or her discretion, to mitigate a fine incurred for an offence under excise law, provided that the amount mitigated is not greater than 50 per cent of the amount of the fine. There are no proposals for further penalty increases at present, but the position will be kept under review, taking account, among other considerations, of practical experience of the operation of the increased fines provided for in the 2010 Act.

Item Type
Dail Debates
Publication Type
Drug Type
Tobacco / Nicotine
Intervention Type
Crime prevention, Policy
28 May 2013

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