Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) has welcomed a debate due to take place in the Dáil this evening (17.20) on Fianna Fáil’s Private Members Bill the Sale of Illicit Goods Bill 2017. The Bill, which was introduced by Fianna Fáil TD for Louth/Meath East Declan Breathnach aims to create a deterrent to purchasing smuggled goods like cigarettes, alcohol and solid fuel which undercut Irish retailers. The Bill makes it an offence to purchase such goods from an unregistered or unlicenced retailer, provides for the imposition of a penalty in respect of such offences and provides for an on-the-spot fine in respect of such offences.
The Bill is a significant step in combatting smuggling into Ireland which is a growing problem. Revenue’s Tobacco Survey 2017 revealed that 13% of all packs of cigarettes held in Ireland are illegal – this amounts to approximately 520 million cigarettes consumed. This represents a loss to the Exchequer of €229 million in 2017 alone. Revenue’s 2017 annual report showed that it also seized 95,021 litres of illicit alcohol with an estimated value of €0.91 million.
RAS spokesman, Benny Gilsenan said “The issue of smuggling has grown more apparent than ever in 2018 so the timing of this Bill is significant. We saw the discovery of a massive cigarette factory in Louth this year, as well as two fuel laundering plants. With the recent tobacco excise increase in Budget 2019 and the smoky coal ban due to be implemented next year as well as a potential hike in carbon tax, the likelihood of an increase in tobacco and fuel smuggling over the border is extremely high.”
Mr Gilsenan continued “This Bill will help protect small retailers by deterring the purchase of illicit goods. This goes some way to closing the gaping holes in Irish legislation that have existed until now and we hope that all members of Dáil Eireann will support it to protect our small and medium retail sector.”
While RAS welcome the legislation, we also recognise that Revenue officials and An Garda Síochána need more resources to combat smuggling in the coming years.
“Brexit has created a political atmosphere that will likely make cross-border smuggling more lucrative, with a fluctuating sterling and potential tariffs. The Bill ensures that a major gap in the legislation surrounding the illicit trade is closed – the next steps are to ensure that retailers and Revenue do not lose out on yet more money to criminals,” Gilsenan continued.