MPs told 75% of smuggling is due to organised gangs & large scale fraud

Tuesday 07 December 1999

ASH/ Press releases/


102 Clifton Street,London EC2A 4HW Tel: (0207) 739 5902 Fax: (0207) 613 0531

Press Release
7th December 1999
Embargo: 00:01
Action on Smoking
and Health

MPs told 75% of cigarette smuggling is due to organised gangs and large scale fraud

Tuesday night – MPs were told that, according to latest figures from HM Customs and Excise, three quarters of cigarette smuggling is now undertaken by criminal gangs and involves freight consignments of millions of cigarettes. This is three times the scale of the ‘White Van’ bootlegging trade. At a meeting of the All-Party Group on Smoking and Health, health campaigners argued that large-scale smuggling can only be tackled by a crackdown on fraud.

Clive Bates, Director of ASH, told MPs: “Cigarette smuggling isn’t down to a few sleazy small-time operators taking white transit vans over the Channel to Belgium, but serious gangsters who have moved from narcotics into tobacco because the risks are lower. Most cigarette smuggling is going on in freight containers of millions of cigarettes via elaborate diversion frauds.”

Notes to the editor

  1. The International Herald Tribune reported the first prosecutions of tobacco industry executives (from RJ Reynolds) for involvement in smuggling on December 24, 1998. Tobacco companies have supplied wholesalers in Belgium and Andorra. The Gallaher 1997 annual report says: “Gallaher believes the gains [to Gallaher] in Andorra relate to increased bootlegging trade into the UK.”
  2. Estimated Tobacco smuggling in the UK 1999
Hand-rolling tobacco £m
Cross channel smuggling 340 720
Air passengers 50 ~0
Large scale fraud* 1,390 ~0
Total losses through illegal sales 1,890 720
(Legal) cross-border shopping 85 ~0


Contact Karl Brooks, ASH (0207) 739 5902
Alex Strutt, SHM Customs and Excise (0207) 865 5472

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