Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (139)

Finian McGrath


139. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans to tackle counterfeit fuel and tobacco sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11687/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for collecting tobacco products tax and mineral oil tax and for tackling the illicit trade in tobacco and oil products, that they are conscious of the threat that this criminal activity poses to legitimate businesses and to the Exchequer. Combating this criminality is, therefore, a key priority for them. Revenue employs a multi-faceted strategy to detect and intercept illicit tobacco products, at point of importation and within the country, and to identify and prosecute those involved in the illegal trade. Considerable success has been achieved in this work, with the seizure of 95.6 million cigarettes and 5,276 kilograms of tobacco during 2012. There were 132 convictions for tobacco smuggling or for the sale of illicit tobacco products in the course of the year.

The main form of criminality in the fuel sector is the laundering of marked gas oil and the sale of the laundered product as auto-fuel, and Revenue acts against this illegal activity at all stages of the fuel supply chain. 11 oil laundries were detected during 2012, and 199,000 litres of fuel were seized in the course of those operations. A further 914,000 litres of illicit fuel were seized, the greater part from retail outlets or in the course of delivery to such outlets. In addition, 57 retail outlets were closed during the year, for trading without a licence or for breach of licence conditions.

To facilitate enhanced control and supervision of the fuel supply chain, licensing requirements were introduced, from 1 October 2012, for persons dealing in marked fuels. As well as these licensing changes, a requirement is now in place for all fuel traders to make monthly returns to Revenue, electronically, of their fuel transactions. This will facilitate Revenue in detecting unusual or anomalous patterns of activity. Work is proceeding also, in close cooperation with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, on obtaining an improved fuel marker.

The Revenue Commissioners will continue their extensive work against the illegal fuel and tobacco trades and, in addition to ongoing enforcement activities, will continue to develop innovative ways of combating those responsible for them. This work will continue to include cooperation with representatives of the legitimate trade. As part of this process, the Commissioners would be pleased to discuss areas of possible cooperation with RGDATA, and will invite them to join the Hidden Economy Monitoring Group – a forum for the exchange of views on measures to combat the hidden economy between the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Protection (DSP), the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation and the National Employment Rights Agency (NERA) and representative bodies of employers, unions and industry.