ALMOST 160,000 cigarettes have been seized in Cork Port and Cork Airport in the first eight months of this year.
That is according to figures provided to Cork North Central Fine Gael TD Colm Burke after he tabled a parliamentary question on the issue.
According to the figures, 144,300 cigarettes with a value of €96,662 were seized in Cork Port while 13,980 with a value of €9,364 were seized in Cork Airport.
In addition, eight kilos of tobacco with a value of €4,900 was seized.
Deputy Burke told The Echo: “While I congratulate Customs and gardaí on being so proactive, I am concerned and feel we also need to look at the current regulations.”
He said the sale of tobacco and tobacco products increased during the lockdown period by €130 million. He questioned whether the sales increased because of a poor supply of contraband cigarettes and tobacco on the black market.
“If you have a situation where people are able to buy cigarettes at a far cheaper rate outside of Ireland, contraband cigarettes will continue into the future.”
He believes laws restricting the importation of tobacco products into the country exclusively to those with plain packaging that includes both pictorial and text warnings in both the Irish and English languages would help eliminate smuggling of tobacco products. He said a similar system that was introduced in Finland requires health warnings to be provided in words and pictures in both Finnish and Swedish.
In response to the parliamentary question, the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe said: “I am aware that Revenue 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.”
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