Member states could use EU’s help to fight illegal cigarettes, they just have to ask!
Brussels - Illegal cigarette flow to the EU continues to flourish. According to a third-party study conducted by Royal United Services Institute, France is the Member State with the highest volumes of illicit cigarettes and around 30% of the total amount originates in one country. Algeria remains the largest producer with numbers as high as almost 2.5 billion cigarettes each year.
Tomas Zdechovsky, Member of the European Parliament and Member of the Budgetary Control Committee, drew attention to this situation and placed parliamentary question for written answer to the Commission. He was interested if OLAF is supporting France in investigating the routes from Algeria and if has OLAF considered that those routes may include other Member States (e.g. Spain)?
While combating the illicit trade is principally a matter of the French authorities the EU’s European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) could be advantageous, the European Commission said.
OLAF has a unique investigative mandate to fight tobacco smuggling into the EU, as smuggling is cross-border issue that affects multiple member states at the same time. In complex cross-border cases in particular, OLAF can bring significant added value by helping coordinate anti-smuggling operations carried out by law-enforcement agencies across Europe. OLAF works to ensure that evaded duties are recovered, criminal smuggling networks are dismantled and perpetrators brought to justice.
The Commission also stated that in recent years, the EU Member States have seized between 3.1 and 3.8 billion cigarettes per year and OLAF contributed to the seizure of more than 1.5 billion cigarettes over the last three years within the framework of the Joint Customs Operations (JCOs).
However, up until now France has not requested OLAF’s assistance in this regard, the Commission concluded. „This is very sad and I hope France and even other member states will now ask for help because OLAF´s assistance could be very usefull for them.“ commented Zdechovský.