Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 374 - Illicit trade in tobacco [27070/15].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 374 - Illicit trade in tobacco [27070/15]. (22 Sep 2015)

374. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance the extent of seizures of illegal cigarettes in the past 12 months; the amount of revenue lost to the State; and his plans to combat the very serious matter of illegal cigarettes being brought into and sold in this country. [27070/15]


Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan):  I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their action against the illegal trade resulted, in 2014 in the seizures of 53.4 million cigarettes. Up to end of August this year, some 44.1 million cigarettes have been seized. Notable seizures have included quantities of 7.68 million, 10.3 million and 9 million.


Combating the illegal tobacco trade has been, and continues to be, a priority for Revenue. Their actions include a range of measures to identify and target those who are engaged in the supply or sale of illicit products, with a view to seizing the illicit products and prosecuting those involved. Their multifaceted strategy also includes ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of the problem, development and sharing intelligence on a national, EU and international basis, use of analytics and deployment of technologies and optimising the deployment of resources.


A combination of risk analysis, profiling and intelligence and the screening of cargo, vehicles, baggage and postal packages contribute to the effectiveness of Revenue's goal to intercept the supply of illicit tobacco products. Revenue also target the illicit trade at post-importation level by carrying out intelligence-based operations and random checks at retail outlets, markets and private and commercial premises.


Revenue co-operates extensively with An Garda Síochána in acting against 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. In addition, cooperation takes place with other tax administrations and with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in the ongoing programmes of action at international level to tackle the illicit trade.


The extent of the illegal trade in cigarettes is estimated through annual surveys of smokers that are carried out for the Revenue Commissioners and the National Tobacco Control office of the Health Services Executive by Ipsos MRBI. Assuming that the illegal cigarettes consumed displaced the equivalent full tax paid quantities of cigarettes, the results of these surveys indicate that the loss to the Exchequer in excise duty and VAT in 2014 was of the order of €210 million.


I have introduced a number of measures in recent years to assist Revenue in dealing with tobacco smuggling and illegal tobacco sales. Measures in 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 excisable products.


In the Finance Act 2013, I introduced new offence and forfeiture measures relating to the illicit production of tobacco, including offences of keeping materials and equipment for the purposes of illicit tobacco production, and provision for forfeiture of any equipment, materials, or unmanufactured tobacco used for illicit production.


In the Finance (No. 2) Act 2013, I strengthened the obligation on a person suspected of dealing in unstamped tobacco products to provide information to a Revenue officer or a Garda and to present any tobacco products concerned for examination. This measure also allows the officer or Garda to search any bag or other receptacle that he or she reasonably believes to contain tobacco products that are concerned in the offence.


I am satisfied that the current legislative framework provides an effective basis for action by Revenue against the illegal tobacco trade. I will consider any proposals for additional measures that are shown to be of assistance to Revenue in this area.

Item Type
Dail Debates
Publication Type
Drug Type
Tobacco / Nicotine
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
22 September 2015
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