Cigarette trafficking: tracking on the Internet, punch operations, additional customs officers, Gabriel Attal presents his new anti-smuggling plan

The Minister of Public Accounts Gabriel Attal must unveil this Monday a new plan intended to strengthen the fight against illicit tobacco trafficking, a phenomenon of his own admission in full “explosion” in France. He chose the Pyrénées-Orientales, a department on the border with Spain, one of the favorite routes for contraband tobacco bound for France.

According to statistics published by the customs, more than 284 tons of contraband tobacco were seized in 2020, 402 tons in 2021 and already more than 600 tons, of which more than two thirds of cigarettes, in the first ten months of 2022.

The authorities’ plan “aims to adapt the customs response to the unprecedented scale of the parallel tobacco market”.

Among the key measures expected:

  • The deployment of a dozen vans equipped with X-ray scanners capable of sifting through a vehicle in sixty seconds, for an amount of 45 million euros.
  • The formation of anti-tobacco anti-trafficking groups”capable of carrying out operations and investigationsin the nine major identified smuggling areas of the country.
  • A “cybertabac” network set up to track traffic on the Internet or social networks.
  • Tools of “scientific customs” which make it possible to trace the origin of contraband tobacco, in order to better determine the circuits of trafficking.
  • the recruitment of 300 customs officer positions by 2025.

Gabriel Attal indicates the opening of a reflection, with his colleague Keeper of the Seals Eric Dupond-Moretti, with a view to a “reinforcement of criminal sanctions against buyers, sellers and manufacturers of contraband tobacco.”

I set a clear objective for customs, to stop the parallel market’s headlong rush by 2025.

Today, for traffickers, bringing contraband from Asia has become too long and too expensive. Traffickers now produce their own packaged cigarettes in Poland, Spain, Belgium and sometimes even France.

A sign of the vitality of the traffic, customs discovered in December 2021 and last September in the same town of Poincy in Seine-et-Marne, two “factories” for the clandestine manufacture of cigarettes, the first to be dismantled in France.

The massive increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes, which rose from 6.5 to 10 euros in four years, also contributed to the rise in traffic.

Since July 2020, French people buying cigarettes in another country can only carry one cartridge in the car, whereas the maximum was until then four.

Since then, a third of cigarettes purchased in France come from the black market. France thus became the European champion consumption of contraband cigarettes: 6 billion cigarettes, or 30% of those consumed in the country in 2020, would come from the black market, according to Point.

A phenomenon that represents a dead tax loss of three billion euros for the government.

The Minister of Public Accounts is due to unveil the 2023-2025 plan this Monday at Le Boulou, in the Pyrénées-Orientales, one of the favorite routes for contraband tobacco bound for France.

“There are massive observations made on this border, symbolic for all of my colleagues, in particular those of the Pyrénées-Orientales. The idea is to highlight the work of customs, “ said the minister.

Written with AFP.

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Cigarette trafficking: tracking on the Internet, punch operations, additional customs officers, Gabriel Attal presents his new anti-smuggling plan


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