Fake Disney toys seized in black market crackdown
Ireland's booming Christmas black market is now worth more than €500m, with shoppers warned about a flood of illegal cigarettes, fake Irish football jerseys, rip-off Disney products and counterfeit smartphones.
Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) said the scale of the problem was so bad that it now warranted a major Garda and Revenue crackdown including mandatory fines and asset seizures for convicted black marketeers.
The black market is now costing the Irish economy €1.4bn a year with one-in-three cigarettes smoked in some Irish cities now smuggled.
One-third of black market activity occurs over the peak Christmas shopping period.
The Revenue Commissioners has stepped up searches and raids over recent weeks and confirmed the seizure of smuggled tobacco products, counterfeit Disney goods, including 'Frozen' DVDs and toys, as well as fake high-end luxury goods such as Jimmy Choo shoes, Irish football jerseys, Louis Vuitton handbags and Nike sports gear.
One Customs and Excise seizure last month involved 100,000 labels for luxury sports products.
Black market operators have adjusted their systems to avoid importation detections - and now affix labels in Ireland to non-branded clothing products that are legitimately imported from China, Thailand, Bangladesh, India and Cambodia.
Seizures have also included fake Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy handsets.
One Dublin seizure even included hundreds of fake GHD hair straighteners.
"The problem with these types of items is that they pose a very serious risk of harm to users because of possible electrical malfunctions.
"These are not genuine goods so they have not been tested or trialled," a Garda spokesman said.
The Revenue Commissioners warned that counterfeit goods were inflicting losses on legitimate Irish retailers and potentially costing jobs.
Most counterfeit goods are sold door-to-door or via markets and fairs.
A recent Grant Thornton and Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) study found that illicit trade was costing Ireland:
- €466m due to fuel laundering;
- €691m due to tobacco smuggling;
- €269m due to digital piracy;
- €58m due to black market pharmaceutical sales.
The €1.4bn annual loss to the Irish economy is made up of €937m in lost tax revenues and €547m lost to rate-paying retailers.
A survey of discarded cigarette packs on the streets and bins in Cork found that 30.3pc were non-domestic brands.
This compared with 27.7pc from a survey just 12 months ago.
The three worst Irish towns and cities for black market tobacco sales are Drogheda (32.8pc), Tallaght (32.8pc) and Athlone (32.4pc).
RAS estimated that one crime gang is now making an estimated €3m a week from black market trade.
Tobacco smuggling is considered one of Ireland's biggest black market problems, given the willingness of income-hit consumers to purchase illicit goods.