Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Questions (59)

Robert Troy

Question:

59. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance the measures he is taking to ensure a clampdown on the illicit tobacco trade. [10463/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax and for tackling the illicit trade in tobacco products, that they attach a high priority to dealing with this criminal activity. Their "Strategy on Combating the Illicit Tobacco Trade (2011-2013)", which is published on the Revenue website (www.revenue.ie), includes a range of measures designed to complement each other in targeting the supply and demand sides of the market for illicit tobacco products. 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, ongoing review of operational policies, development of analytics and detection technologies, and optimum deployment of resources at both point of importation and within the country to intercept and seize illegal products and to prosecute those involved.

Interception of illicit tobacco products is achieved through a combination of risk analysis, profiling, intelligence, and the screening of cargo, vehicles, baggage and postal packages. 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.

In carrying out this important work Revenue works in close cooperation with other relevant agencies, both nationally and internationally. There is extensive cooperation between Revenue and An Garda Síochána, and the agencies concerned in the State and in Northern Ireland work closely together, 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 revenue administrations and with the European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF, in the ongoing efforts to tackle the illicit trade at international level.

Considerable success has been achieved in combating the illegal trade, and more than 95 million illicit cigarettes were seized during 2012. Revenue is committed to ensuring that the highest possible levels of seizures of illicit product are achieved on an ongoing basis and will see to it that this work continues to have high priority.

There has been considerable success also in detecting and prosecuting those involved in the illicit trade, with 132 convictions during 2012 for the smuggling or sale of illicit products.

Revenue is conscious that those involved in the illegal trade in tobacco are constantly looking to avoid detection by seeking out new ways of smuggling the illicit product and putting it on the market, and that its own response needs to be agile and adaptive in combating this criminal activity to take account of this.