Media Release: Customs Department’s fiercer crackdown on contraband cigarettes

Media Release:
Customs Department’s fiercer crackdown on contraband cigarettes  
         - Considerable increase on penalties imposed on illicit cigarettes

Importing, supplying and consuming of contraband cigarettes drastically and negatively affects the country in various ways.  During these last months, the Customs Department, notwithstanding the aggressive enforcement campaign, was also taking stock of the whole detrimental situation.From these analyses, it clearly transpired that the actual deterrent effect on those who break the law, is quite ineffective.  In fact, it is not at all discouraging to contrabandists to take the risk in supplying said cigarettes.  This is consolidated due to the many repetitive cases which the Customs Department frequently encounters.
Thus, this anomalous situation in the various segments throughout the country must be dealt with in such a manner where it would address the demand side as well as the supply side. This means that Customs Department has no other alternative but to proceed in the same manner against those who import and sell, as well as those who consume these types of cigarettes.
For this reason, the law pertaining to evasion of excise duty has been amended thoroughly.
The increase of such penalties is definitely not of a cosmetic nature as follows:

•        Out of court settlements will increase from €250 to a minimum of €1,500; and
•        Court penalties will increase from €500 to a minimum of €3,500 up to a maximum of €25,000 in the case of seizure, whilst in the case of
           evasion this will increase from €600 to a minimum of €4,000 up to a maximum of €25,000.

Apart from this deterrent, Customs and Police authorities will be increasing their enforcement measures by increasing their resources.

Customs Department could have gone beyond the proposed measures, however, it was felt that currently this would suffice to send a clear message.  Those who would persist in breaching the law, will discover that the law has become much harsher and more powerful.  The decent citizen, who pays all duties merits full thorough protection from the authorities.