Illicit cigarette use declines in EU but production rises

The consumption of illicit cigarettes fell below 8 per cent of total cigarette use last year, but was still equivalent to nearly 39bn smokes and €9.5bn in lost tax revenues, says a new report.

The latest edition of the annual study – carried out by KPMG on behalf of tobacco giant Philip Morris International – also found that imports of illicit cigarettes from non-EU countries such as Ukraine and Belarus declined in 2019, with law enforcement reports suggesting there are “increasing volumes from illegal factories within the EU.”

Illicit ‘whites’ with no country specific labelling – i.e. legally produced cigarettes that are smuggled and traded illegally, often through free trade zones (FTZs) – remain the largest element of the counterfeit and contraband (C&C) category, representing 23.1 per cent of total EU illicit consumption or 9bn cigarettes.

Counterfeit of brands owned by manufacturers participating in empty pack surveys grew to 7.6bn cigarettes, an increase of more than 38 percent over 2018’s figure, and is the highest level ever recorded by KPMG. Counterfeit consumption was the highest in the UK and Greece.

The overall picture is one of increasing sophistication by the criminal networks behind the illicit trade, with multiple production units to compensate if one is raised, and increasingly high tech manufacturing equipment. New groups are also emerging that are focusing specifically on smuggling raw and fine cut tobacco.

“Illicit manufacturers are producing counterfeit, established and new illicit white brands to order at scale for organisations and smugglers who can arrange distribution of large volumes, either in large shipments or increasingly via high frequency, low volume shipments,” says KPMG.

Criminal groups are exploiting new distribution channels, such as rail, as it is faster than traditional shipping routes, as well as courier packages which are small and hard for law enforcement to detect, according to the report.

“The continued decline of illicit tobacco trade in the EU is a positive development and reinforces the importance of supply chain control measures, strict enforcement, and collaboration in combating this issue,” said Alvise Giustiniani, vice president of Illicit Trade Prevention at PMI.

However, while considerable efforts have taken place to stem contraband cigarettes from flowing into the EU, “we are once again seeing criminal organisations shifting their operations to stay one step ahead of anti-illicit programmes, according to the company.

Source: Phil Taylor, Securing Industry, 26 June 2020

The Illicit Tobacco Trade in Zimbabwe and South Africa

The following report (Working Paper) was issued in March 2019, a while back, but should not be considered too outdated for analysis and consideration, nevertheless.

A study was conducted to explore how the illicit trade in licit goods supports organized crime, corruption, and erodes state structures. The illicit tobacco trade in southern Africa occupies a prominent place in southern African politics, due to its prominent role in the ‘state capture’ scandals that characterized politics in South Africa between 2013 and 2018. Indeed, the illicit tobacco trade occupies a prominent place in public debate in South Africa, both about crimes that may have been committed in the last five years, and about how the current administration responds to the illicit economy right now.

The study maps the key dimensions of the illicit cigarette trade in Zimbabwe and South Africa, including the key actors, the pathways of trade and the accompanying ‘modalities’ of criminality, as well as other important dimensions of the illicit cigarette market in southern Africa. It then identifies ‘good-faith actors,’ primarily in South Africa, whose positions could be strengthened by policy and technical interventions, explores opportunities for such intervention, and assesses the practi- cal solutions that can be applied to combat illicit trade and tax evasion in the tobacco industry. The paper contributes to expanding awareness among policymakers and the public of the nexus between the illicit trade in licit goods, corruption, and organized criminal networks.

Download the Report via this link.

Source: Atlantic Council

Africa losing $40bn in illegal cigarette trade

ContrabandA tobacco body has urged African governments to stamp out illegal tobacco trade, as their economies are losing billions of dollars in taxes annually. Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (TISA) revealed that governments in the region are losing between US$20 billion and US$40 billion annually in taxes as a result of illegal tobacco trade, hence the need for collaboration among stakeholders to curb the vice.

This is contained in a statement issued by KPR Consulting Limited on Friday. “The size of the global illegal tobacco trade ranges between 330 and 660 billion cigarettes a year. These are cigarettes that are either smuggled, counterfeited or where tax is being evaded. “This equates to around six and 12 percent of global consumption, which deprives governments of between US$20 [billion] and US$40 billion a year in taxes,” the statement reads.

TISA, which is a regional body that represents tobacco traders, growers and processors, estimates illicit tobacco trade incidences in Zambia being between 20 and 30 percent. South Africa is rated among the top five countries globally when it comes to the trade in illegal cigarettes, with industry research estimating that around 23 percent of all cigarettes consumed in South Africa in 2014 were illegal. Commenting on the issue, British American Tobacco Zambia managing director Clara Mlambo cited weak penalties for criminals, poor border controls, low arrest rates and tobacco taxes creating intra-regional disparities as contributing factors.

Tobacco Taxes or Cigarette Smuggling – Which Is Worse?

Cigarettes+XXX+smokingRampant cigarette smuggling isn’t the problem in New York–“sky-high” tobacco taxes are, according to an op-ed by Patrick M. Gleason, director of state affairs at Americans for Tax Reform, in The Wall Street Journal.

Gleason’s opinion piece, titled “A Laffer Curve for Smokes,” digested here, takes the city and state of New York to task for their $180-million lawsuit against UPS over what officials allege was unlawful delivery of nearly 700,000 cartons of cigarettes. (A Laffer curve, named for economist Arthur Laffer, shows the relationship between rates of taxation and levels of government revenue.)

“This misguided lawsuit demonstrates once again that too many in government do not understand the root cause of cigarette smuggling. New York state levies the highest cigarette tax in the nation, $4.35 per pack, and New York City tacks on an additional $1.50 local tax. All told, the cost of one pack there can run to $12 or more.

“The result? Most of the cigarettes smoked in New York, 58%, are smuggled in from out of state, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. The higher that revenue-hungry politicians raise tobacco taxes, the more profit smugglers can make.

“Politicians never learn. Of the 32 state tobacco tax increases that went into effect between 2009 and 2013, only three met or exceeded revenue projections, according to industry data.

“Lawmakers can claim they’re raising taxes on cigarettes to reduce smoking and improve public health. That talking point is belied by the recent imposition of taxes on electronic cigarettes, which are saving lives by delivering nicotine in puffs of water vapor instead of chemical-filled smoke. There are more than 15 tax bills pending across the country for currently untaxed e-cigarettes. Hawaii is proposing a tax of 80%, New York of 75%, Oregon of 65% and Ohio of 60%.

“For politicians, cigarette taxes are—and have always been—about one thing: money.

“New York state officials claim that the cigarette smuggling via UPS cost the treasury $29.7 million in lost tax revenue. That’s less than 0.03% of the state budget. The $4.7 million allegedly lost by New York City represents less than 0.006% of its budget.

“For a mere rounding error, state and city officials want to grab $180 million from UPS. That’s $180 million UPS could use to hire new workers, give employees raises, or invest back into its business. The leaders of New York and New York City should drop this silly lawsuit and find a more productive use of their time.”

Click here to view the full Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

Contraband Cigarettes – 3 Zimbabweans and a South African arrested

cigarettes1Three Zimbabweans and a South African were arrested in Limpopo province for allegedly teaming up and smuggling cigarettes worth $200,000 into the neighbouring country. The Zimbabwean trio, Takuzo Mutswiro, 22, Tatenda Nyamhunga, 31, Joseph Mhembwe, 27 and Gilbert Mamburu, 54, a South African from Tshiozwi village in Limpopo province, were arrested last week at Tshilwavhusiku near Thohoyandou after police intercepted a truck they were using to transport the cigarettes.

Limpopo provincial spokesperson Colonel Ronel Otto, in a statement, said police followed up on information they received about suspicious activities at Mamburu’s house. Upon arrival at the scene, the three Zimbabweans attempted to run away, but were apprehended. Cigarettes with an estimated value of more than R2 million were found hidden in a small truck as well as a light delivery truck. It is suspected the cigarettes were smuggled from Zimbabwe, however their origin and destination is still being investigated.

Lately there has been an increase in the number of cigarette smugglers being arrested in the neighbouring country. Some of the cigarettes are smuggled out of the country through undesignated entry points along the crocodile-infested Limpopo River while others find their way into South Africa through Beitbridge Border Post despite the presence of Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) scanners.The machines are able to detect concealed goods hidden in sealed containers.

The South Africa reportedly charges high rates on cigarette imports, which has resulted in a marked increase in cases of smuggling between Zimbabwe and South Africa. Most of these cigarettes are repackaged when they get to South Africa before being shipped to either Europe or Asia.

According to the South African Revenue Services (SARS), Beitbridge Border Post accounts for 70 percent of the cigarettes which are smuggled into that country. A recent statement from the South African Police Service said cigarette smuggling from Zimbabwe was being prioritised after it emerged the country supplied 55 to 70 percent of the 10 billion cigarettes reaching the neighbouring country’s black market. Source: The Chronical (Zimbabwe) & Customstoday.com

Its Annual Budget time – Tobacco, Tax and the Black Market

Cigarettes+XXX+smokingThe nation awaits the 2015 Budget Speech with trepidation to know if income taxes will rise. But there is unanimous certainty there will, as per usual, be an increase in ‘Specific Excise Duties’. The only question is by how much? Taxation of cigarettes and tobacco products appears to be the path of least resistance for tax-collectors. It receives little backlash from the wider public (unlike e-tolls) and even support in some quarters.

The imposition of the so-called “sin taxes” on cigarettes and liquor products, in addition to generating significant fiscal revenues, does serve an economic purpose. Unlike normal goods and “necessity” products, cigarettes are not an essential good which people need to survive. As far back as the 1700s, Adam Smith averred “Sugar, rum, and tobacco, are commodities which are nowhere necessaries of life … are therefore extremely proper subjects of taxation.” Again, the notion of the importance of tobacco to the fiscal basket is exemplified in utmost simplicity and honesty – if a politician, or an emperor in this case can be believed –

This vice brings in one hundred million francs in taxes every year. I will certainly forbid it at once – as soon as you can name a virtue that brings in as much revenue [Napoleon III (1800s) – reply when asked to ban smoking]

Despite all the furore over public health and governments efforts to decrease the demand for cigarettes, South Africa is no different to other nations – annual tobacco revenues to the state coffers amounts to around R10 Billion! Another round of sin tax increases in the upcoming budget appears inevitable, and these increases are spawning a range of unintended (but not unexpected) consequences – the illicit trade. Source: Polity.org / DNA Economics.

ZIM Police struggle to bust cigarette racket

CigarettesAn intricate web of smugglers, which reportedly involves manufacturers and middlemen, has been illegally carting cigarettes worth millions of dollars out of the country over the years, prejudicing the treasury of vital revenue.

Cigarette manufacturer, Savanna, has been fingered as one of the main culprits, while multinationals like BAT have also been mentioned in the illicit cross-border trade, mainly to South Africa.

Commonly smuggled brands include Remington Gold, Madison, Sevilles, Magazine Blue, Chelsea and Pacific Blue, manufactured by Savanna – which consistently denies smuggling.

A senior police sokesperson said “Even though we don’t always talk about it, we have managed to make significant arrests and the cases have been taken to court. The arrests include smuggling attempts at undesignated spots along the border and through official exit points such as Beitbridge”

A senior customs official told The Zimbabwean that cigarette smuggling, particularly through Beitbridge and Plumtree border posts, was difficult to arrest because of corruption.

“Policing at the border posts involves several agencies, namely the police, CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation), customs and special deployments from ZIMRA (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority). The problem is that these officers work in collaboration with the smugglers and haulage trucks and other containers carrying the cigarettes are cleared without proper checking. Hefty bribes are involved and the money is too tempting to resist,” said the customs official.

“You would be amazed how wealthy these officers have become. They have bought houses, luxury cars and send their children to expensive schools – yet their regular salaries are so low,” he added.

Immigration and customs officials, who also constantly liaise with their South African and Botswana counterparts and meet physically regularly, pretend to be checking the containers but clear them without completing the task, and know what the trucks and other carriers would be ferrying.

ZIMRA has four scanners for detecting contraband and an anti-smuggling team that also uses sniffer dogs, in addition to guard soldiers posted between the Zimbabwean and South African borders.

There are about 15 regular roadblocks along the Harare-Beitbridge road and 10 between Bulawayo and Plumtree that search trucks, buses and private cars. Despite this, the smuggling continues because of the collusion among the officials, said the source.

In early January, the Ferret team, a joint operation involving Zimbabwean and South African officers, intercepted a truckload of 790 Remington Gold cigarettes worth an estimated $119,000 destined for South Africa along the Masvingo-Beitbridge road. The smugglers were caught and arrested while offloading the cartons into small trucks. Source: The Zimbabwean

Irish Customs seize 50 million illegal cigarettes in 10 months

Revenue officials unload the Shingle at Dublin Port after 32 million cigarettes were seized [Picture: Irish Mirror]

Revenue officials unload the Shingle at Dublin Port after 32 million cigarettes were seized [Picture: Irish Mirror]

Customs officers have scored a major victory in the battle against smugglers after seizing 50 million cigarettes in 10 months.

The Irish Mirror reports Revenue officers made 5,025 separate swoops between January and the end of October.

They also impounded 9,560kgs of tobacco in 867 operations.

The record haul makes 2014 one of the most successful to date in the war on counterfeit tobacco.

While these smuggled cigarettes would have cost the Exchequer tens of millions of euro they’re also more dangerous for smokers’ health.

And with the huge crackdown, Customs officers will be keeping up the pressure in 2015 to stub out the tobacco black market.

A Revenue spokeswoman told the Irish Mirror: “To the end of October, more than 50 million cigarettes were seized in 5,025 separate seizures while 9,560 kilogrammes of tobacco were seized in 867 seizures.

“This includes a major seizure in Drogheda in June in which officers, supported by An Garda Siochana, seized more than 32 million cigarettes and 4,500kg of water pipe tobacco.

“Combatting the illegal tobacco trade is, and will continue to be, a high priority for Revenue.

“Our work against this illegal activity includes a range of measures designed to identify and target those engaged in the supply or sale of illicit products, with a view to seizing them and prosecuting those responsible.”

Customs officials use tactics including risk analysis, profiling, intelligence and screening of cargo, vehicles, baggage and postal packages.

They also carry out random checks at retail outlets, markets and commercial shops.

The spokeswoman said: “This includes analysis of the nature and extent of the problem, developing and sharing intelligence on a national, EU and international basis.

“It also includes use of analytics and detection technologies and ensures optimum deployment of resources at points of importation.

“Revenue co-operates extensively with An Garda Siochana in combating the illicit trade, and relevant agencies in the State also work closely with their counterparts in the North, through a cross-border group on tobacco enforcement, to target organised crime groups 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 on-going programmes at international level.”

Last week, Last week, routine profiling helped customs officers seize 600,000 cigarettes at Dublin Port with a retail value of €304,000. Source: Irish Mirror

South Africa leads the Continent in Illicit Cigarette Trade

illicit cigarettesSouth Africa leads Africa in the illicit trade in tobacco and is listed among the top five illicit markets globally, according to the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa, which represents tobacco growers, leaf merchants, processors, manufacturers, importers and exporters of tobacco products in SA.

More than R20bn in tax revenue has been lost in SA since 2010 due to the illicit trade in tobacco, the institute’s CEO, Francois van der Merwe, said on Wednesday. The problem is severe in SA, but Zambia, Namibia and Swaziland have estimated incidences of well above the global average of between 10% and 12%.

Mr van der Merwe said efforts to combat the illicit trade in tobacco were complicated by the links that the business had with transnational organised crime syndicates, some of which funded terrorism.

“The problem runs far deeper than enormous losses of fiscal income that could have been put to good use to bolster government efforts in education, infrastructure development and poverty alleviation,” said Mr van der Merwe.

He was speaking ahead of a meeting later in November of global, regional and local law enforcement, along with revenue and customs agencies in Cape Town, who will seek better ways to collaborate in addressing the illicit tobacco trade in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We have seen first hand what effective focus on combating illicit trade by government can achieve,” said Mr van der Merwe, ascribing a decrease in the illicit tobacco trade, from 31% to 23% this year, to better collaboration.

“This is in the most part due to the excellent efforts by the various law enforcement, customs and revenue, Treasury and defence departments in the South African government.”

Mr Van der Merwe said that although the declining numbers in SA were encouraging, this did not bode well for the rest of the region as organised crime was a moving target prone to shifting its focus to “easier” markets when it was under attack.

He claimed that those who traded in illicit products, whether cigarettes, alcohol, textiles or DVDs, or committed environmental crimes such as rhino poaching or abalone smuggling were most often also involved in other serious crimes and even the funding of terrorism and money laundering. Source: BDLive.co.za

Relate articles

Smoked! Tobacco tax law cost U.S. billions in revenue

Examples of cigarette and cigar products - Photo: GAO

Examples of cigarette and cigar products – Photo: GAO

A 2009 law that raised federal taxes to discourage smoking cost the U.S. government billions of dollars in lost revenue as manufacturers relabeled products and consumers shifted to cheaper pipe tobacco and large cigars, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report released on Tuesday.

The GAO estimated $2.6 billion to $3.7 billion in lost revenue from April 2009 to February 2014 as manufacturers exploited loopholes in the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act which raised taxes for smoking-tobacco products.

“Each of the three tobacco manufacturers that agreed to speak with us explained that their companies switched from selling higher-taxed roll-your-own tobacco to lower-taxed pipe tobacco to stay competitive,” the congressional watchdog agency said in the report, which was the focus of a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

At the hearing, Liggett Vector Brands LLC Chief Executive Ronald Bernstein urged lawmakers to take action against abuses by manufacturers.

He held up two seemingly identical, but differently labeled non-Liggett bags of tobacco. Showing a third sample, he pointed out that a label saying “all-natural pipe tobacco” covered up a statement that the bag “makes approximately 500 cigarettes.”

“Everyone knows this is cigarette tobacco,” Bernstein said. “The manufacturer knows. The consumer knows. And I know. I know because I tried smoking it in a pipe and it was not a pleasant experience.”

Some manufacturers also add a few ounces of tobacco to small cigars so they qualify as the larger product. Others even mix in clay or kitty litter to increase the weight, Michael Tynan, policy officer at the Oregon Public Health Division, told the hearing.

The GAO said the tobacco market shifted accordingly. Yearly sales of pipe tobacco rose more than eight-fold from fiscal 2008 to 2013, while sales of roll-your-own tobacco declined almost six-fold. Over the same period, large cigar sales doubled, while small cigar sales dropped to just 700 million from 5.7 billion.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, who convened the hearing, criticized the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which is responsible for collecting tobacco taxes and cracking down on evasion, for “footdragging.”

In recent years, the agency has pushed to apply “advanced investigative techniques to uncover illicit trade and fraudulent activity,” including deploying about 125 auditors and investigators, the TTB wrote in its Senate testimony.

Responding to a push to better differentiate between roll-your-own and pipe tobacco, the agency published an “advanced notice of proposed rule making” in 2010 and 2011. But no rule had yet been issued, the GAO wrote.

In 2015, the TTB will issue a proposed regulation cracking down on the illegal activities, TTB Administrator John Manfreda said on Tuesday. Source: nbcnews (contributed by Z Taylor)

11 Million cigarettes wash up on Devonshire coast

The container ship Svendborg Maersk was battered by hurricane winds as it crossed the northern stretch of the Bay of Biscay on February 14th. Battling 30-foot waves and working through winds of 60 knots the ship arrived only to find that a large chunk of her cargo had been swept overboard. The ship was originally heading from Rotterdam to Sri Lanka.

The shipping giant initially reported that only 70 containers had been lost in the storms. However, last Wednesday this number skyrocketed to 517 – the largest recorded loss of containers overboard in a single incident. Countless more are supposed to have been damaged when six of the bays tilted over.

Maersk have suggested that almost 85 percent of the containers were empty, with the rest containing mostly dry goods and frozen meats. They also reinforced the fact that none of the containers were carrying harmful substances and that many had sunk in the turbulent seas.

Nevertheless, French authorities have been on the lookout for floating containers, which can be hugely problematic for other shipping vessels, alongside a huge environmental risk. According to New Zealand marine insurer Vero Marine, a 20-foot container can float for up to two months, whilst a 40-foot container may float up to three times longer.

Already, containers have been surfacing as far away as the coast of East Devon, United Kingdom. The 40-foot container washed up at Axmouth, near Seaton and is estimated to contain 14 tonnes of cigarettes. Police were immediately called in to cordon off the area and scare away any would-be smokers hoping to make a steal and sneak off with a portion of the 11 million cigarettes (refer to picture gallery).

As of yet, there has never been a requirement for shipping lines to report container loses to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)or any other international body. In 2011, the World Shipping Council estimated that around 675 containers were lost at sea, whilst the Through Transport Club, which insures 15 of the top 20 container lines, has suggested that the number is closer to 2,000.

However, other sources suggest that this is nowhere near the true number, with some citing as many as 10,000 lost at sea each year. Analysts have suggested that one of the reasons such loses can occur are due to the lack of accuracy when weighing containers before transit. Some shippers have been found to understate the weight of containers in order to reduce shipping costs. Such misinformation can lead to uneven strain on a vessel as it transverses the seas.

One of the most notable incidents occurred in 2007 when the MSC Napoli ran aground off the English coast, breaking up and spilling 103 containers worth of toxic cargo, polluting five miles of the South Western coast. The UK marine accident investigation board ruled that the accident was due to cargo being loaded in such a way that it exceeded the baring weight of the hull girders, resulting in a structural failure across the ship. The report concluded that if such loses are to be prevented, it is essential that containers be weighed before embarkation. Source: Port Technology

Operation “Warehouse” – Joint Customs Operation prevents losses to the EU States

OLAFAlmost 45 million smuggled cigarettes, nearly 140.000 litres of diesel fuel and about 14.000 litres of vodka were seized during a major Joint Customs Operation (JCO). The Operation code-named “Warehouse” was carried-out in October 2013 by the Lithuanian Customs Service and the Lithuanian Tax Inspectorate in close cooperation with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), and with the participation of all 28 EU member states. As a result of Operation “Warehouse”, a significant potential loss to the budgets of the European Union and its Member States was prevented. According to preliminary estimates, this would have amounted to about € 9 million in the form of evaded customs duties and taxes. The final results of the Operation were discussed by the participants last week at a debriefing meeting in Vilnius and were made public today across Europe.

Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for taxation, customs, anti-fraud and audit, welcomed the very good results of the operation. “The fight against the smuggling of excise goods is one of our political priorities and we have launched a number of initiatives to better equip Europe against such harmful practices being run by organised criminal networks. JCO Warehouse is a good example of how the EU and Member States’ authorities can cooperate effectively to protect their revenue. Joint Customs Operations safeguard the EU’s financial interests and also protect our citizens and legitimate businesses”, he said. “Such Operations also highlight the added-value of OLAF in helping facilitate the exchange of information between our partners across Europe and in providing effective operational support.”

Operation “Warehouse” focused on cargo movement by road transport. It targeted the smuggling and other forms of illegal trade of excise goods such as mineral oil, tobacco products and alcohol throughout Europe. By using several complex scenarios in multiple EU Member States, fraudsters lawfully import goods into the EU but request a VAT and excise exemption by declaring the goods as subject to tax and duty exemption regimes (e.g. declaring the goods to be in transit). The trace of the goods is then lost through the fictitious disappearance of the traders or through a fictitious export. Fraudsters avoid paying VAT and excise duties, but the goods remain in the internal market, causing a substantial loss to the EU’s and Member States’ revenues.

JCO “Warehouse” was the first Operation carried-out in close cooperation with tax authorities to target excise and VAT fraud specifically, besides customs fraud. For the first time, customs and tax authorities cooperated on a European scale in a JCO. This is a significant achievement since the different competences and legal regimes applicable at national and EU level make it difficult to address complex fraud schemes with uniform measures. In this Operation, customs and tax authorities joined their expertise, resources and shared intelligence to prevent losses to the EU’s and Member States’ budget.

Eight seizures were made during the Operation. Among these, authorities seized 6.617.400 cigarettes in Sweden and Lithuania; 135.831 litres of diesel in Poland and the United Kingdom, and 14.025,6 litres of vodka in United Kingdom alone. Overall, 44.957.160 cigarettes were seized.

During the entire Operation “Warehouse”, OLAF provided organisational, logistical, financial and technical support to allow for an exchange of information and intelligence in real-time. This was coordinated from the Physical Operational Coordination Unit (P-OCU) at the OLAF premises in Brussels which facilitated direct communication with the national contact points. A group of liaison officers from some Member States representing all the participating 28 EU countries, worked from here during the Operation and experts from the Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union provided support.

EUROPOL participated as an observer in the Operation. A representative of the office was present at the P-OCU during the operational phase of the operation. It was also possible to make direct cross-checks of suspect individuals and companies appearing during the JCO with EUROPOL via a secure internet connection. Source: EU Commission

Tobacco duty-free concessions changed

For ‘smoking’ travellers to Australia, please read up on the new duty-free concessions before you decide to stock up.

The reduced tobacco duty-free limit came into effect on 1 September 2012. It was announced in the 2012-13 Federal Budget that the duty-free concession on tobacco products would change.

Travellers aged 18 years or over can bring 50 cigarettes or 50 grams of cigars or tobacco products duty-free into Australia with you. All tobacco products in accompanied baggage are included in this category, regardless of where or how they were purchased.

Be aware that if you exceed Australia’s duty-free limits, duty and tax will apply on ALL items of that type (general goods, alcohol or tobacco), not just the goods over the limit. The general goods and alcohol duty-free concessions remain the same. Source: Australian Customs Service

Australia’s high court recently upheld the government’s decision to implement a law which requires cigarettes to be sold in olive green packets, with graphic images warning of the consequences of smoking. The law is to come into effect on 1 December 2012. The South African authorities appear to be following the same route and are currently ‘testing’ the concept of the olive green packets (what’s there to test?). Despite the obvious reaction of the Tobacco Inc. to the new law, it is not difficult to see that it will make anti-counterfeit enforcement even more difficult for authorities. Perhaps the UK liquor boys are ahead in their thinking – import liquor in bulk and bottle it in the UK, this way you’re in charge of the packaging and labelling. Health officials are definitely more concerned with health than profit.