From: Irish Mirror
Bought in a Dublin house for €20.. made in filthy Chinese sweatshops.. and handing gangs like the RIRA €90m
We expose the multi-million cigarette smuggling racket that’s making gangs a fortune
The Irish Mirror today reveals the secret multi-million euro cigarette smuggling racket that touches every city, town and village in Ireland.
Our investigation into the illegal trade has found cheap smokes from China, Belarus and Vietnam are now readily available everywhere – and line the pockets of the Real IRA and other criminal gangs.
Mirror reporters were able to buy smuggled cigarettes openly not just in a street traders’ mecca like Moore Street in Dublin, but in tiny weekly markets such as Kildare town and from ordinary streets.
Our findings will come as a shock to Health Minister James Reilly who spearheaded the new EU ban on menthol fags last Friday.
The trade also costs the taxpayer millions of euro in lost taxes and duties.
The minister is aiming to bring in plain packaging for cigarette boxes to deter youngsters from smoking – but gardai and Customs say it will make smugglers’ job a lot easier.
The Mirror probe found:
- Smuggled cigarettes are openly on sale for less than half the price in retailers
- Average price is €4.00 a pack or €40 for 200
- vast majority come from factories in China
- Real IRA are making more than €90million a year from the trade
- Serious Irish criminals and Traveller gangs across Europe are involved
- The loss to the exchequer in unpaid duty is €600million a year, and
- MORE than 28% of cigs smoked here have no tax paid on them.
Last night a senior Customs source told Irishmirror.ie: “The extent of this is frightening. The smuggled fags and tobacco are everywhere – from Donegal right down to Cork.
‘The Real IRA and the gangs are making so much money and there are very little laws to stop them.
“No one goes to jail for this. It’s a completely different case to drugs where you can get 10 years if your are caught with €10k of drugs.
“It is a free-for- all as far as the smugglers are concerned.
“And the Government doesn’t seem to care.”
Two Irish Mirror reporters were able to buy smuggled smokes at Kildare town street traders’ market last Thursday – just a day before Mr Reilly and EU colleagues agreed a new ban on menthol cigs.
Two men in a silver 04-registered Passat parked near the Heritage Centre in the centre of the town before 9am and immediately began selling contraband.
A young man in his 20s, wearing a light blue jacket, black vest and blue jeans, sold one journalist a carton of 200 Goal cigarettes for €40 shortly after 10 am.
They displayed no place of manufacture on the packet – except to say “Made in EU” – nor Irish or British Government warnings. They simply have a generic warning.
The seller handed them over in a plastic bag and said he had other more expensive cigarettes for €45 a carton.
The source said: “These are great value – less than half the price in the shop. Those Goal are a nice cigarette.”
A second journalist was able to buy a carton of 200 Gold Classic cigs from another man in a silver van just metres away.
They were in brown packaging and looked like Benson and Hedges.
Like the Goal fags, they had a generic warning about the dangers of smoking, but nothing official from any Government. It simply said they were made in the EU.
Dressed in a distinctive yellow and blue top with check short, this trader – also in his 20s – did a brisk trade all morning.
Business was so good that by 11am he had run out and an 08-registered Passat pulled up and gave him more than half a dozen cartons and several large packets of loose tobacco to sell.
He quickly put them in a brown bag and headed back to his van to continue his business.
He told our reporter: “I’ve no Benson and Hedges until next week.
“But the Gold are really good. I can get you as much as you want. I’m here every Thursday.”
There is nothing to suggest that the legitimate traders were aware of the illegal activity around them.
In Moore Street, Dublin, that lunchtime the sellers were doing a roaring trade. Youngsters on bikes carrying rucksacks filled with Mayfair, Gold Classic and Goal smokes replenished the street traders when they ran out.
Every few metres the sellers cried: “Tobacco, tobacco, cigarettes, cigarettes… get your tobacco here.” One woman in her 60s sold our reporter two packs of Gold Classic for €9 or €4.50 a pack. She said they were cheaper by the carton– €40 for 200, as in Kildare.
A Garda source said: “It’s not worth going after these people… they are the bottom of the chain.
“But even when we go for the big men along the Border, it’s so hard to catch them.
“Plus the laws are not there to deal with smuggling. If you get caught bringing in millions of fags, you get a slap on the wrist. You’ll have to pay the duty, but that’s it.
“The Real IRA and the criminals know that. It’s a win-win for them.
“Now if the plain packaging comes in, they will have an even easier time. Instead of having to produce several different packages, they’ll just have to produce one.”
Minister Reilly wants Ireland to become the first country outside of Australia to bring in the same drab brown generic boxes for all smokes.