Written answers

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Photo of Noel RockNoel Rock (Dublin North West, Fine Gael)
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113. To ask the Minister for Finance the cost of smuggling to the Exchequer; the seizures by category in 2015 and in 2016 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6719/16]

Photo of Michael NoonanMichael Noonan (Minister, Department of Finance; Limerick City, Fine Gael)
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I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the numbers of seizures, in 2015 and to the end of March this year, of various categories of products and goods, the numbers of items seized in each of those categories and the estimated values of those seized goods, are set out in the following table.

20152016

(to 31st Mar)
No. of SeizuresQuantity SeizedValue(€m)No. of SeizuresQuantity SeizedValue(€m)
Cigarettes5,92768 million34.41,27213.3 million6.99
Tobacco1,2272,364 kg1.1282398 kg0.2
Oil47215,132 litres-1433,529 litres-
Alcohol93845,842 litres0.62718,766 litres0.13
Drugs4,8261377 kg23.091,44924.35 kg1.9
Other*1,282--203--
Vehicles**1,372--347--

*Refers to non-excisable commodities such as pornography, weapons and food.

**Vehicles seized for marked mineral oil offences, Vehicles Registration Tax offences and because of use in connection with alleged offences under customs or excise law.

In addition, there were 138,183 items detained in connection with suspected contravention of intellectual property rights in 2015. The estimated market value of the genuine equivalent of these items was in excess of €2.2m. The figures for 2016 (up to end March) are 12,768 items and €477,000 respectively.

Estimating the scale of any illegal activity, and the tax loss to which it gives rise, is necessarily difficult and it is not possible, therefore, to attribute a value to the overall losses associated with smuggling. The extent of the illegal trade in cigarettes is estimated, however, through annual surveys of smokers that are carried out for the Revenue Commissioners and for the National Tobacco Control Office of the Health Services Executive by Ipsos MRBI. Assuming that the illegal cigarettes consumed displaced the equivalent full tax paid quantities of cigarettes, the provisional results of the 2015 survey indicate that the loss to the Exchequer in excise duty and VAT attributable to the illegal trade was in the order of €192 million.

The Revenue Commissioners also advise me that, while there is no reliable estimate of the extent of illegal activity in the fuel sector, they recognise that fuel fraud, including the laundering of markers from rebated fuel, is a significant threat to Exchequer revenues. Action against this illegal activity is, therefore, a priority for Revenue, which is implementing a comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem.

I am assured by Revenue that action against all forms of smuggling, as well criminality in the fuel sector including fuel laundering, is, and will continue to be, a central element of their work. For my part, I have taken action through the Finance Acts to ensure that Revenue has all the necessary powers to combat these forms of criminal activity, and am satisfied that there is a robust legal framework in place that allows effective action to be taken against those responsible for such crimes.

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