Bootleg alcohol seizures rise dramatically

Revenue figures suggest fall in smuggled tobacco and cigarette activity

Sat, Dec 28, 2013, 16:57

Seizures of counterfeit alcohol increased four-fold this year compared with last, while seizures of smuggled cigarettes and tobacco appear to have declined sharply, according to figures from the Revenue Commissioners.

Figures covering the first 10 months of this year also suggest seizures of such drugs as cannabis, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy are also down considerably on last year.

Some 929 litres of counterfeit alcohol were seized by customs officials in the period to the end of October this year, compared with just 232l in the same period last year. The most commonly copied alcoholic product was vodka. It is not only illegal but can be extremely dangerous and even lethal, warns Revenue.

“In many cases the alcohol is sourced from the industrial sector and may contain high quantities of methanol. Human consumption of methanol is very dangerous and can have serious and even fatal effects, including blindness,” said a spokeswoman.

She said the bottles were filled with raw alcohol to a set level and then diluted with water to a normal strength of alcohol for the market – between 37.5 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV) and 40 per cent ABV. The bottles would usually be genuine, sourced from recycling or centres or pubs and so very difficult to tell from the genuine article. However hygiene standards were generally non-existent and there were no quality assurances in place at sites were such products are produced.

Seizures of illegal tobacco products would appear to be down considerably this year. There were 5,023 seizures of a total of 37.7 million smuggled cigarettes, worth €17 million in the first ten months of the year. This compares with 8,105 seizures of a total of 95 million smuggled cigarettes worth €43.3 million in the whole of 2012.

Similarly, there were 954 seizures of a total of 3,828 kg of smuggled tobacco, worth €1.53 million in period to the end of October this year, compared with 1,397 seizures of a total of 5,277 kg of smuggled tobacco, worth €1.95 million in 2012.

Revenue attached a high priority to dealing with the criminal cigarette and tobacco trade, the spokeswoman said.

“The illicit trade in cigarettes and other tobacco products poses a threat to legitimate law-abiding businesses and deprives the exchequer of significant tax revenues. It also works against the Government’s anti-smoking policy, for example, by making cigarettes available to young people who can’t obtain them through legitimate channels.”

Comparison of drugs seizures in the first ten months of this year with total seizures last year also suggests a fall in activity. While there were 681 seizures of cannabis (herbal and resin), amounting to 577 kg and with a street value of €10,838,191 in the first ten months of the year, there were 1,814 seizures of 1,477kg of cannabis, valued at €12.6 million in the 12 months of 2012.

There were 107 seizures of heroin and cocaine, totalling 47 kg, valued at €4,278,509 to end of October 2013, compared with 85 seizures, totalling 496 kg and worth €33.1 million through last year. There were 140 seizures of other illicit drugs including LSD, Ecstasy and amphetamines, totally 165 kg and worth €2.5 million in the first 10 month of this year, compared with 6,307 seizures, totalling 183 kg and worth €3.6 million last year.