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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Sale of Illicit Goods Bill 2017: second stage [private members].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Sale of Illicit Goods Bill 2017: second stage [private members]. (24 Oct 2018)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...


Deputy Declan Breathnach: I am delighted to introduce the Sale of Illicit Goods Bill on Second Stage. In doing so, I wish to acknowledge the input of RAS, the Retailers Against Smuggling organisation, and the report compiled by Grant Thornton on illicit trade in Ireland. I also wish to thank my Fianna Fáil colleagues for allocating the time for this debate.

 

The smuggling trade in Ireland was previously thought of as a form of cute hoorism, a fairly innocuous activity whereby people, mainly in the Border region, found ways of earning a little extra income. Being from a Border region, I see at first hand the damage that current illicit trade activity does to the livelihood of retailers. This is a no longer just a Border problem, but a nationwide problem with illegal cigarettes, alcohol and fuel ending up for sale on every street of every village, town and city in our country. Unfortunately, smuggling has become a massive illegal criminal activity, causing huge losses in revenue to the State and retailers. In 2009, for example, €50 million worth of contraband cigarettes were confiscated at Greenore Port. That 120 million illegal cigarette haul was the largest ever seized anywhere in Europe.

 

Currently, there is no deterrent to purchasing smuggled goods as it is not a crime. The aim of the Bill is to deter people from buying illicit alcohol, solid fuel and tobacco by introducing on-the-spot fines for purchasing goods where taxes have not been paid. This is a necessary measure to protect small and not so small Irish retailers. The primary benefit of the legislation is not that it will create a punishable crime, but that a clear message is being sent that one should not purchase these products because one is facilitating criminal gangs by doing so. The level of criminality could be curtailed if purchasers were more aware of how they aid and abet the criminal underworld.

 

Illicit trade continues to be a huge burden on the Exchequer and on small businesses. In addition to the 20% to 30% of direct turnover retailers are losing, they also miss out on add-on purchases of other products in the store. Some 13% of all packs of cigarettes held in Ireland are illegal, representing a loss to the Exchequer of €229 million in 2017 alone and €1.7 billion between 2010 and 2017. As RAS has said, this is enough to build 8,400 social housing units. Instead, the money goes directly into the hands of criminal gangs. In the case of alcohol, during 2017 the Revenue Commissioners seized 95,021 litres of illicit alcohol with an estimated value of €0.91 million. Total seizures of alcohol in Ireland have increased by 100% and continue to increase yearly. The loss to the economy from 2010 to 2014 alone was €655 million, money that could be spent on our ailing health service rather than lining the pockets of criminal gangs.

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