Retailers call on next ‘Programme for Government’ to commit to tackling the illegal trade of tobacco and fuel.
In a letter sent today to all parties, Retailers against Smuggling (RAS) set down an Action Plan which it believes will go a considerable way in stamping out the unacceptable levels of competition legitimate retailers’ face from criminal gangs who sell illegal tobacco and fuel.
“While the formation of the next Government is not yet clear, the issue of the illegal tobacco and fuel trade continues to be a significant issue for retailers nationwide. Small legitimate businesses rely on the legal cigarette trade for 10-30% of our business and these criminals selling cigarettes on our streets are directly impacting us. We believe the targeted approach in our action plan will be effective” said Benny Gilsenan, spokesperson of RAS.
A key ask of the RAS Plan is the establishment of a Working Group on illegal trade in Ireland. This Group would invite all interested and affected parties to participate and would review the impact draft legislation would have on smuggling. These findings could then feed into policy debate in Dáil Éireann. “This Group would give retailers and others affected by the black market the opportunity to highlight the impact it has on their businesses and communities” commented Mr Gilsenan.
In addition to the Working Group, Retailers Against Smuggling Action Plan also calls for:
1. Making it illegal for a person to purchase illicit cigarettes
2. Additional resources for An Garda Siochána and the Revenue Commissioners, for the work of the Joint Agency Task Force, set up under the terms of the 2015 A Fresh Start Agreement, to tackle cross-jurisdictional organised crime
3. A moratorium on further excise increases until such increases can be proven not to encourage smuggling as a result of price differentials.
4. An extension of the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014 to cover all those deemed to have illegally smuggled cigarettes or fuel, regardless of that person’s means.
5. An extension of the investigations scope of Revenue to non-registered retail outlets; for those outlets which are repeat offenders of selling illicit cigarettes and tobacco, the serving of closure orders.
6. A repeal of market licences by local Councils where illegal goods have been found to be sold
7. Increased inspections of non-tobacco and non-fuel retail shops by the EHO
Retailers Against Smuggling are fully behind the Joint Agency Task Force, set up under the terms of the 2015 A Fresh Start Agreement, to tackle cross-jurisdictional organised crime. “Smuggling along the Border has been a major route of black market goods that threaten the livelihood of small retailers right across the country. We have had enough and it is time to put a stop to this criminality once and for all” said Mr Gilsenan.
Retailers Against Smuggling was set up in June 2009 to represent tobacco retailers in Ireland in the fight against the illicit tobacco trade. RAS has almost 3,000 retail members around the country and 15 corporate sponsors.
Revenue’s figures from 2015 show 215,132 litres of marked fuel oil was seized as well as 68 million cigarettes and 2,364kg of tobacco to the value of €35.5m. Faced with unacceptable levels of competition from organised and dangerous criminal gangs, registered retailers are struggling to run their family businesses.