November 2, 2009 - The true number of cigarettes imported illegally into Ireland is more than 800 million a year, it is claimed. Revenue and gardai (a police officers in the Republic of Ireland) seized a haul of 120 million cigarettes in Greenore, Co Louth, worth an estimated €50m (73.8m USD) this week.
Yet the average penalty for trading in illegal cigarettes -- €423 (624.05 USD) -- is and should be increased, a TD said. Fine Gael (United Ireland Party), justice spokesman, Charlie Flanagan: "The Government must send a message to the middlemen who trade illegally in tobacco by imposing hefty fine. If this doesn't happen, the incentive to import cigarettes illegally will remain."
Ireland's criminal gangs are being sustained by a combination of cigarette and drug smuggling -- with an estimated 20pc of cigarettes bought in Ireland coming from the black market. "The authorities impounded 134 million cigarettes last year, but estimates suggest that 826 million cigarettes go undetected annually," Mr Flanagan said.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has estimated the contraband costs the state more than €500m (738.3m USD)a year in lost revenue. "I believe a mandatory fine of €10,000 (14,765.72 USD) would be appropriate for this type of offence and would make many think twice before becoming part of the illegal chain of supply," he said.
Meanwhile, the Irish Cancer Society said there should be a "concerted strategy" to combat cigarette smuggling into Ireland. This should include disrupting the supply and distribution chain for illegal cigarettes, increasing the penalties for smuggling and tackling the demand side by raising public awareness.
"It has been clear for some time that Ireland has become the target of criminal gangs smuggling contraband cigarettes, some manufactured specifically for the Irish market," said Kathleen O'Meara, head of advocacy and communications at the ICS.
Smoking causes 30 percent of all cancers in Ireland and an estimated 6,000 people die in Ireland every year of smoking related diseases including cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses, the society said. While the average fine here is only €423, it has been €5,000 (7,382.26 USD) in Britain for a number of years and should be increased in Ireland, Ms O'Meara added.
Reference: 800 million black market cigs smuggled in each year PROFITS: Gangs making a fortune -- but average fine for offenders is €423 by Michael Lavery (email@example.com), Herald.ir, 10/30.2009.
illegal, illicit, contraband, black market
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