Thirteen per cent of cigarettes sold are contraband, says Revenue

Illegal tobacco sale means almost €230m in lost revenue

Thirteen per cent of all cigarettes sold in Ireland are contraband, according to the Revenue Commissioners.

In addition, 15 per cent of pouch tobacco used for roll-your-own cigarettes is smuggled.

The money lost to the Exchequer from unpaid duty on the sale of illegal packets of cigarettes is put at €229 million. No separate figure for revenue lost through the sale of illegal pouch tobacco is given in statistics published on Wednesday.

The figures are part of the Revenue's 2017 Annual Report which included separate research into illegal tobacco sales for the year. This found that 26 million packets of illegal cigarettes were sold out of a total national sale of 215 million packets.

Revenue classifies illegal cigarettes in several ways – 10.1 per cent of the illegal 13 per cent are known brands smuggled into the Republic; 2.9 per cent are known as “illegal whites”, that is, cigarettes made illegally and smuggled to a point of sale; and counterfeit packs of known brand names.

Although the 13 per cent figure may seem high, it compares favourably with figures of 15 and 16 per cent that pertained from 2009 to 2011.

Of illegal pouch tobacco, the 15 per cent on which duty has not been paid represents an increase from the nine per cent figure in 2016.

In an introduction to the report, Revenue said it works closely with counterpart agencies in Ireland and abroad to combat illegal activity, including smuggling and fuel laundering.

“During 2017, we seized 3,692 kilos of drugs with an estimated value of almost €60 million. In November, we uncovered a large-scale counterfeit vodka production plant,” said the report.

“Alongside the serious risks to the Exchequer that are posed by these illegal operations, they also create significant public health risks and often fund organised crime.

“We very successfully collaborate with the relevant agencies and authorities both nationally and internationally and our programme of enforcement action has a clear focus on criminal activities.

“During 2017, we secured 24 criminal convictions for serious tax and duty offences and at the end of the year, a further 27 cases were in the judicial system.”