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Dáil Question on increased cooperation between the Gardaí and Revenue Commissioners on the introduction of plain packaging cigarettes

QUESTION NO: 416 for WRITTEN on Tuesday, 11th March, 2014. 

* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality in view of proposals to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes, if he envisages increased cooperation between the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners and An Garda Síochána to deal with the illegal tobacco industry; if he expect there to be an increase in the number of searches undertaken by An Garda Síochána as part of intelligence led operations led by the Revenue Commissioners in such activities, taking into consideration the concerns of retailers that plain packaging will result in an increase in the illegal tobacco trade; if An Garda Síochána will place greater emphasis, on a district and divisional level, to target those involved in the sale and distribution of illegal products, at markets and via door-to-door sales; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Anthony Lawlor

REPLY.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the lead role in investigating the illegal trade in tobacco rests with Revenue’s Customs Service in the context of preventing financial losses to the national exchequer due to the avoidance of the payment of excise duties.

There is a close working relationship in place between the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners and An Garda Síochána in tackling this form of criminality. An Garda Síochána provides ongoing support to the Revenue Customs Service and searches are regularly undertaken by the Gardaí as part of intelligence-led operations led by the Revenue Customs Service. An Garda Síochána also continue, on district and divisional levels to target those involved in the sale and distribution of illegal products, at markets and via door-to-door sales.

In addition, the Criminal Assets Bureau continues to actively participate in the Cross Border Tobacco Enforcement Group which was established in May 2010. This group also includes representatives from the Revenue Commissioners, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

With regard to the operational details of the support provided by An Garda Síochána to the Revenue Customs Service, the Deputy will appreciate that this is a matter for the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources to address policing needs as they arise.

In relation to proposals contained in the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill, the Deputy will be aware that there has been much speculation with regard to the possible adverse implications for law enforcement. These concerns were addressed by both the Revenue Commissioners and An Garda Síochána at the recent debate on the proposed legislation at the meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children on 21 January 2014.

I can assure the Deputy that the illicit tobacco environment will continue to be monitored closely by our law enforcement authorities.

ENDS