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UK Government Signs Agreements To Tackle Tobacco Smuggling

20 April 2009

The Government has today taken another significant step in the fight against tobacco smuggling as Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Angela Eagle today signed anti-smuggling agreements with two international tobacco manufacturers.

The agreements – with Philip Morris International (PMI) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) – complement the legislation that the Government introduced in 2006, requiring all tobacco manufacturers to help prevent smuggling through careful control of their supply chains.

The Exchequer Secretary Angela Eagle, said:

“These agreements are an important new element in the fight against tobacco smuggling. In the last decade we have halved the size of the illicit cigarette market in the UK and by signing these agreements, we are demonstrating that we are determined to continue working with tobacco manufacturers to tackle smuggling.”

Since the UK’s first Tackling Tobacco Smuggling strategy was published in 2000, HM Revenue & Customs and the UK Border Agency have:

  • reduced the proportion of illicit cigarettes from 21% in 2000 to 13%;
  • seized more than 14 billion cigarettes and more than 1000 tonnes of hand rolling tobacco in the UK and abroad;
  • broken up 370 criminal gangs involved in large-scale smuggling;
  • prosecuted more than 2,000 people and issued more than £35m worth of confiscation orders.

Notes for Editors

1. Under the new agreements, PMI and JTI are committed to working with the European Commission, the UK Government and customs authorities across the EU to tackle the smuggling and counterfeiting of their products. They will do this through measures which include Know Your Customer rules and track-and-trace technology. The agreements also require PMI and JTI to make payments to the UK authorities if their genuine products are seized by HMRC.

2. Further details of the two agreements can be found in the following European Commission press releases:

3. The Government announced its intention to conclude negotiations on signing these agreements at the time of the 2008 Pre-Budget Report, when it publishedTackling Tobacco Smuggling Together: An Integrated Strategy for HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency (HMRC website). This document sets out the Government’s record on and future plans for tackling tobacco smuggling.

4. In April 2009 HM Revenue & Customs established inland detection teams to target the illegal trade in tobacco, alcohol, and oils. (HMRC Press Notice no. NAT 29/09) The UK Border Agency operates detection functions at UK borders having brought together officers staff from HM Revenue & Customs, the Border and Immigration Agency and Foreign and Commonwealth Office visas. UKBA began operation on 3 April 2008 and was officially launched by the Home Secretary at Gatwick Airport. Its formation was announced in November 2007 (Home Office Press Notice no. 178/2007).

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