Criminals going door-to-door to sell the 'cheapest fags in country'
Published 11/10/2010 | 05:00
ILLEGAL cigarette dealers are now selling their smuggled goods door-to-door in housing estates.
In some areas the sellers are delivering flyers in housing estates with "price lists" for the illegally branded cigarettes and a mobile telephone number to contact to make a purchase, according to a lobby group set up to fight the black market for tobacco.
Prices advertised vary from €40 for 200 'John Player Blue' to €28 for 200 'Gold Classic'.
A flyer found in Clara, Co Offaly, claimed to offer the "cheapest fags in Ireland", with 200 'John Player Blue' available for €37.
Similar products bought legally in a shop would cost between €95 and €99 for 200 cigarettes.
It was recently revealed that children as young as 10 were being used by criminal gangs to sell smuggled cigarettes at markets but now, according to Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS), leaflets are being posted through letter-boxes advertising cigarettes at less than half-price.
RAS estimates that the State is losing out on up to €500m in taxes every year because of the import and sale of illicit cigarettes, while the trade sector lost up to €700m last year.
As many as one in every three cigarettes smoked in Ireland now comes into the country illegally -- mainly from China -- through criminal gangs.
However, retailers' estimates conflict with figures from the Revenue Commissioners, who estimate that smuggled cigarettes cost the State €200m last year and that they made up 14pc of all the cigarettes smoked in the country.
According to RAS spokesperson, Dublin-based shop-owner Benny Gilsenan, "there isn't enough being done to tackle it" by the state agencies.
"Until such time as the Department of Justice and the Department of Finance both get involved, it will continue."
He said that cigarette turnover in his own shop, off the North Circular Road in Dub-lin, was down 27.8pc since 2008.
"If you're a smoker and someone on the street offers you 20 John Player Blue or Rothmans for €4, are you really going to walk into me and pay €8.55?"
"Large-scale criminal gangs are involved in it but it's coming down to people delivering leaflets through doors" RAS campaign manager Paddy Donohoe said.
RAS says that the cigarettes are being hand-rolled in China, specifically for the Irish market, with packaging forged to include the Irish government health warning.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan told the Dail a fortnight ago that Revenue had established a "high-level internal group", chaired at commissioner level, to examine the risks related to tobacco excise.
Initiatives set up by this group include profiling of passengers and freight into the country to identify smugglers; the establishment of a "tobacco hotline"; national "blitz-style" operations; the purchase of scanning and other detection technologies; "and learning from best-practice internationally".