Tobacco makers to fund fight against cigarette smugglers
TOBACCO manufacturers have agreed to help bankroll the fight against organised crime gangs involved in the highly lucrative illegal cigarette trade.
Measures have been drawn up to make it easier to trace consignments of cigarettes and pinpoint shipments that are being distributed illegally.
Manufacturers will now mark packaging with information indicating the intended market for retail sale.
They will stamp them with barcode labels and implement other measures to improve the tracking of their products.
Cigarette smuggling in Ireland is costing taxpayers up to €500m a year in lost revenue.
The EU Commission has now struck a deal with British American Tobacco (BAT) to work together in combating the illegal trade.
BAT, which manufacturers Rothmans, Benson & Hedges and Lucky Strike cigarettes, will also give €134m over the next 20 years toward funding the crackdown on the gangs.
According to commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, the agreement will help protect the EU's financial interests and strengthen the forces against contraband and counterfeit cigarettes.
It is reckoned EU states lose up to €10bn a year in unpaid taxes from smuggled tobacco.
Profits from the trade are often used to fund terrorism and other crime activities.
The smuggling operations have grown and diversified over the past few years, officials said last night, and more action is required to identify the source of the illegal products.