Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 57, 58, 59. 60. 157 - Garda operations [tobacco & alcohol seizures] [32368/14, 32369/14, 32370/14, 32371/14 & 32632/14].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 57, 58, 59. 60. 157 - Garda operations [tobacco & alcohol seizures] [32368/14, 32369/14, 32370/14, 32371/14 & 32632/14]. (17 Jul 2014)

URL: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20a...


 57. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance the street value of illicit and counterfeit cigarettes seized nationwide over each of the past ten years; if a breakdown of Garda districts exists for these seizures; the amount he estimates the street value of unseized products to be; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32368/14]

 58. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance the street value of illicit and counterfeit alcoholic beverages seized nationwide over each of the past ten years; if a breakdown of Garda districts exists for these seizures; the amount he estimates the street value of unseized products to be; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32369/14]

 59. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance the street value of illicit and counterfeit CDs and DVDs seized nationwide over each of the past ten years; if a breakdown of Garda districts exists for these seizures; the amount he estimates the street value of unseized products to be; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32370/14]

 60. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance the pumps value of laundered fuel seized nationwide over each of the past ten years; if a breakdown of Garda districts exists for these seizures; the amount he estimates the street value of unseized products to be; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32371/14]

 157. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce additional measures to deal with the problems of smuggling and illegal trading in diesel and tobacco products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32632/14]

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 to 60, inclusive, and 157 together.   

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that combating the illegal trades in tobacco, cigarettes, alcohol and fuel is, and will continue to be, a high priority for them.   

Revenue's work against the illegal tobacco trade includes a range of measures designed to identify and target those who are engaged in the supply or sale of illicit products, with a view to seizing the illicit product 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, the use of analytics and detection technologies and ensuring the optimum deployment of resources at points of importation and within the country.   

Interception of illicit tobacco products, alcohol and fuel is achieved through a combination of risk analysis, profiling and intelligence and the screening of cargo, vehicles, baggage and postal packages, as appropriate. 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.   Action against the illicit trade in mineral oils includes measures to detect and shut down plants illegally laundering marked mineral oil, to detect illicit products in transit and seize both the products and the vehicles transporting them, and to prevent the sale of illicit products.   

There is extensive cooperation with An Garda Síochána in combating these illicit trades, and the relevant agencies in the State also work closely with their counterparts in Northern Ireland, through cross-border groups on tobacco and oils enforcement, to target the organised crime groups that are responsible for large proportions of these illicit markets. In addition, cooperation takes place with other revenue administrations and with the European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF, in the ongoing programmes at international level to tackle these forms of crime.   

Considerable success is being achieved in Revenue's action against the illicit trades. Seizures of cigarettes in 2013 and in the current year to the end of June amounted to 40.8 million and 41.1 million respectively. Seizures this year include one of some 32.2 million cigarettes, as well as 4.5 tonnes of water pipe tobacco, from a vessel at Drogheda Port. This was the largest seizure to date in Europe this year, and was the result of an intelligence-led operation targeting the activities of an international organised crime group headed up by Irish and UK nationals and based in Europe. Action against the illicit oil trade in the period since 2011 has led to the detection and shutting down of 30 oil laundries and to seizure of some 3 million litres of illicit fuel. In addition, more than 120 filling stations were closed, for trading without a licence or for breach of licence conditions.   

Action is taken on an ongoing basis to ensure that the Revenue Commissioners have the most effective means of acting against these forms of criminal activity. The total seizures of illicit cigarettes, alcohol products and mineral oils, in each of the years from 2004 to 2013, are as set out in the table.

 Year

Cigarettes

Alcohol

Oil

 

Quantity (Million)

Value (€m)

Quantity (Litres)

Value (€m)

Quantity (Litres)

2013

40.8

18.9

55,755

1.5

874,882

2012

95.6

43.3

33,059

0.7

1,113,142

2011

109.1

46

34,040

0.5

1,044,830

2010

178.4

75.2

44,276

0.6

289,484

2009

218.5

92

96,759

1

283,817

2008

135.2

54.4

83,037

0.7

100,470

2007

74.5

25.6

22,820

0.3

118,417

2006

52.3

18

57,754

0.6

164,157

2005

51.3

15.6

328,649

2.2

466,180

2004

60.9

18.6

79,593

1

409,916

 

The table shows also the estimated value of the seizures of cigarettes and alcohol products. That information is not available in respect of mineral oil products.   

A breakdown of this information by Garda districts is not available.   The Revenue Commissioners are responsible for the detection and detention of counterfeit and pirated goods, including CDs and DVDs, at points of entry to the State, and responsibility for acting against goods of that kind that are in circulation in the State rests with An Garda Síochána. Data in respect of CDs and DVDs seized or detained by the Revenue Commissioners in the years 2004 to 2013 is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.   

The Deputy will appreciate that estimating the scale of any illegal activity is difficult. The extent of the illicit trade in cigarettes is, however, estimated through annual surveys of smokers, carried out for the Revenue Commissioners and the National Tobacco Control Office of the Health Services Executive by Ipsos MRBI. The 2013 survey indicates that some 11% of cigarettes consumed were illicit. This represents a loss to the Exchequer of some €212 million in excise duty and VAT, assuming that the illicit cigarettes consumed displaced the equivalent full tax paid quantity of cigarettes. Comparable data are not available in respect of alcohol or oil products.   

Legislative action has been taken over recent years to ensure that Revenue has the requisite powers to respond effectively to the problem of the illegal tobacco trade. The Finance Act 2012 clarified the legal basis for Revenue officers to open and examine the contents of postal and courier packets that are reasonably believed to contain untaxed excise products. The Finance Act 2013 introduced new offence and forfeiture measures relating to the illicit production of tobacco, including offences of involvement with illicit tobacco production, knowingly dealing in or delivering any illicit tobacco product and keeping materials and equipment for the purposes of illicit production. Provision was made also for the forfeiture of any equipment or materials, including unmanufactured tobacco, used for illicit production. That Act also strengthened the offence provisions relating to the sale or delivery of unstamped tobacco products. The Finance (No. 2) Act 2013 provided that a person suspected of an offence of dealing in, or with, unstamped tobacco products must provide information to a Revenue Officer or a Garda and may be required to present any tobacco product concerned for examination, and makes provision for search by a Revenue Officer or Garda of any bag or other receptacle that he or she reasonably believes to contain tobacco products that are concerned in the offence.   

As well as those changes to primary law Ireland, in accordance with EU Directive 2008/118/EU, introduced a quantitative restriction, with effect from 1 January 2014, on the number of cigarettes that may be brought into the State for personal use by individuals travelling from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. The Excise Duty on Cigarettes (Quantitative Restrictions) Order 2013 (S.I. No. 553 of 2013) provides that the number of tax-paid cigarettes that may be brought into Ireland for personal use by individuals travelling from those Member States, without payment of further excise duty in Ireland, is restricted to 300. Anyone with cigarettes in excess of that quantity must declare them to a Revenue Officer and pay the appropriate excise duty. This restriction will remain in place until 31 December 2017 or until such time as the particular Member State has achieved the required EU minimum tax levels, whichever is the earlier.   

In response to illicit fuel trading, Revenue has implemented a comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem through enhanced supply chain controls, the acquisition of a more effective fuel marker and continued robust enforcement action.   

Supply chain controls have been enhanced progressively since 2011 with the objective of reducing the capacity of criminals to source marked diesel for laundering or to get laundered fuel onto the market. The supply chain controls introduced include new licensing conditions for all fuel traders and the introduction from January 2013 of a requirement that all licensed fuel traders, whether dealing in road fuel or marked fuel, make detailed monthly electronic returns to Revenue of their fuel transactions. Revenue is using this data to identify suspicious transactions and patterns of distribution for investigation. Revenue has also intensified its targeting, in co-operation with other law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border, of enforcement action against suspected fuel laundering operations.   

To support further the integrity of the distribution system and minimise the risk of fraud, I introduced a provision in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2013 that will make a supplier who is reckless in supplying rebated fuel for a use connected with excise fraud liable for the duty at the standard rate of tax. This new provision will strengthen Revenue's hand in dealing with those traders supplying rebated fuel recklessly to dubious customers and will provide a further disincentive to such activity.   

Revenue has published guidelines for mineral oil traders which will assist them in identifying and avoiding such transactions.   In addition to the measures implemented to date, Revenue and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in the UK completed an Invitation to Make Submissions process to identify a new fuel marker and it is expected that a new marker will be introduced in both jurisdictions early in 2015, following consultation with the oil industry and other stakeholders.   

Revenue works very closely with fuel sector representative bodies in tackling the problem and they have been very supportive of the measures introduced to combat fuel laundering.  The evidence available to Revenue, in terms of feedback from the legitimate trade and increased consumption of road diesel, indicates that this strategy has been very effective.   

The Revenue Commissioners will maintain their commitment to acting against all stages of the supply chains for illicit oil and tobacco products and will continue to make every effort to ensure that those involved in them are brought to account before the Courts for their criminal activities.  

I understand that the Revenue Commissioners continuously review their methodologies and their legislative requirements and where necessary I will of course, give careful consideration to any proposal that might be put to me in that regard.

Item Type:Dail Debates
Source:Oireachtas
Date:17 July 2014
EndNote:View
Subjects:B Substances > Alcohol
MM-MO Crime and law > Substance related offence > Drug offence > Illegal drug possession (seizures)
MM-MO Crime and law > Substance related offence > Tobacco offence
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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