Brian Hayes MEP, in an address to the European Parliament tonight (Monday), has called for an integrated approach to tackle smuggling.
“With the highest price for cigarettes in the EU and the second highest in the world, Ireland is a prime target for international criminal gangs. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), whose role is to prevent smuggling across the EU, needs to improve its coordination with customs authorities throughout the EU. If we can build a Banking Union, we can build a union where all custom authorities and coast guards can at the very least speak to each other.” said Mr Hayes.
“By working together we can take on and beat the criminal gangs. In October of this year the European Anti-Fraud Office’s Operation REPLICA seized 130 million cigarettes.”
“Illicit trade causes huge damage to the retail industry in Ireland especially. Local family newsagents lose out greatly to imported illegal cigarettes. Smuggling has a big impact on the revenues of shops and is directly responsible for job losses in Ireland. 86% of retailers have less than 10 employees and newsagents fall into this category. While the closure of a factory can be front page news, the loss of 1 or 2 jobs in local newsagents all over Ireland gets less attention but has a major impact nationally.”
“The EU Commission estimates that illicit trade in cigarettes costs the Europeans over €10 billion each year in lost tax and customs revenue. And there is a human cost behind the smuggling of illegal cigarettes.”
“The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is the lead European agency tackling smuggling. Working with customs authorities across Europe, they provide hands on support. Criminal gangs ignore jurisdictions, we need to adapt to the threat we face. We need to integrate The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) with national customs and coastguards.”
“Across the EU 11% of cigarettes smoked are illegal, in Ireland its 13%. The men and women of our own Revenue Commissioners, Naval Service and Coast Guard are doing an incredible job. However we have an extensive coastline to police. We need a permanent working relationship with our European partners to tackle the problem of smuggling. Bringing together all of the players in this area, across Europe, and putting this integration on a statutory footing, makes sense for everyone.”