Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Question 152 – Illicit trade [Tobacco] [20218/24].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Question 152 – Illicit trade [Tobacco] [20218/24]. (08 May 2024)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2024...

152. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Finance the measures he is taking with regard to the illegal importation and manufacturing of tobacco products, including cigarettes and vapes. [20218/24]

Michael McGrath, Minister for Finance: I am advised by Revenue that electronic cigarettes, vapes and electronic liquids are not excisable products within the meaning of section 97 of Finance Act 2001 and section 71 of Finance Act 2005. The European Union (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale of Tobacco and Related Products) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 271 of 2016) is the primary source of regulation of such products, in respect of which the Environmental Health Service of the Health Service Executive has responsibility for any relevant enforcement action. 

Regarding the illegal importation and manufacture of tobacco products, I am assured that Revenue is committed to targeting this illicit trade and implements a range of measures to identify and target the smuggling, supply or sale of illicit tobacco products, with a view to disrupting the supply chain, seizing the products and, where possible, prosecuting those involved. Revenue’s strategy involves 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 on a risk-focused basis. Revenue continues to adopt an agile response to this threat and monitors trends in the illicit tobacco trade on an ongoing basis and adjusts its actions and redeploys its resources in response to new developments or methodologies employed by the criminal gangs involved in that trade.

The smuggling of tobacco products has a transnational and cross border dimension and in addition to Revenue’s ongoing cooperation with An Garda Síochána in this area, I am advised that Revenue also works closely with its counterparts in other jurisdictions including colleagues in Northern Ireland through the Cross Border Joint Agency Task Force (JATF) and international bodies including OLAF (the EU’s anti-fraud agency), Europol and the World Customs Organisation.

I am pleased to acknowledge that Revenue has achieved considerable success in tackling the illicit tobacco trade. In 2023, 5,164 seizures of cigarettes valued at €55.7m and 1,673 seizures of tobacco with an estimated value of €7.7m. To the end of April 2024, Revenue had 1,824 seizures of cigarettes valued at €47.7 million and 536 seizures of tobacco valued at €24.4m. In addition to this for 2023 Revenue secured 92 convictions, of which 5 were indictable with fines of €211,700 being imposed and to the end of April 2024 Revenue secured 25 convictions, of which 3 were indictable with fines of €60,750 being imposed, all relating to the smuggling or illegal sale of cigarettes and tobacco products.

Further successes, highlighting Revenue’s approach to the illicit tobacco trade include the detection and dismantling of an illicit commercial cigarette factory in Dublin in February 2024.  This detection was as a result of an intelligence-led operation and follow-up investigations are ongoing nationally and internationally. 

Revenue’s high detection rate is attributable to its multi-faceted tobacco strategy, continued cooperation and intelligence sharing with other national and international law enforcement agencies and its advanced profiling methods and strategic use of appropriate detection technology and assets.

Revenue optimises media engagement in terms of successful prosecutions, significant seizures and enforcement initiatives, ensuring the general public is aware of the commitment by Revenue to tackling the illicit cigarette and tobacco trade and to deter those involved. To further encourage the general public to engage with Revenue in its efforts targeting the shadow economy and the supply of illegal tobacco products, Revenue includes a message on all press releases relating to tobacco products seizures, notifying that businesses or members of the public can contact Revenue in confidence on the free phone number 1800 295 295.

Finally, the Government has ensured through the Finance Acts over the years that Revenue has the necessary statutory powers to tackle the illicit tobacco trade. I am satisfied that the current legislative framework provides an effective basis for undertaking and continuing its important work in this area. I am assured that Revenue is aware of the threat that tobacco smuggling poses to health, to legitimate business interests and to the Exchequer and I commend Revenue and all the relevant State agencies for their work in this important area and I am satisfied that there is an appropriate focus on tackling this form of criminality.

This Government has been consistent in its strong support for ensuring that Revenue has the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate in respect of functions that are critical for its effective functioning as a tax and customs administration and I remain open to considering any proposals from Revenue that will support its work in combatting fraud, illicit trade and smuggling.

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