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What do we know about cigarette smuggling in other parts of the world?

From China to Latin America, cigarette smuggling is big business. Here is some interesting reading on smuggling in Europe and other places

From China to Latin America, cigarette smuggling is big business. Here is some interesting reading on smuggling in Europe and other places:

  • “Tax Probe Targets Cigarette Makers,” Washington Post, March 6th, 2000. New York City is considering suing tobacco companies for their alleged involvement in smuggling from low-tax Virginia to high-tax New York State. [no longer available]
  • Luk Joossens and Martin Raw, “Cigarette smuggling in Europe: who really benefits?”, published in the journal Tobacco Control, Spring 1998.
  • Luk Joossens’ testimony before a European Parliament committee of inquiry, in November 1996.
  • Firm questioned on ‘bootleg’ linkElectronic Telegraph, Jan. 28th, 2000.
  • C’è del fumo in SvizzeraL’Espresso, Feb. 4th, 1999. An Italian news magazine claims to have a copy of a 240-page Italian police report on cigarette smuggling in Europe, and provides some astonishing background. The Mafia, the Camorra and the Sacra corona unita are all involved on the Italian end, but the nerve centre is in Switzerland, L’Espressoreports. The magazine names four alleged kingpins, one in France, three in Switzerland. These top-level people obtain their cigarettes from the industry, in particular from US-based multinational Philip Morris, “which produces most smuggled tobacco in the European Union,” L’Espresso asserts.
  • Schweizer regieren Zigarettenschmuggel (“Swiss control cigarette smuggling”), Tagesanzeiger, Jan. 30th, 1999. For those who read German better than Italian, this article from a Swiss newspaper summarizes material from the same source, in a rather less sensationalistic way.
  • Racketeer Cases Shed Light on Cigarette Smuggling in ItalyNew York Times, Sept. 2, 1997. Philip Morris denies any involvement in an earlier smuggling case.
  • “The Illicit Trade in Cigarettes,” a chapter in the final report of the European Parliament’s 1997 report on the Community Transit System, also singles out Switzerland for its role in cigarette smuggling. The same report lists all the benefits of smuggling for the tobacco industry, but concludes it doesn’t have enough evidence to say whether there is direct industry involvement.
  • Global cigarette taxes and prices — this SHAF table is a useful reminder: Italy has some of the cheapest legal cigarettes in the Western world, so tax levels are not the reason for its smuggling problem.
  • Funding plea to fight smugglingBBC News, Feb. 15th, 2000. The Treasury Select Committee of the British House of Commons dismisses calls for a tobacco tax rollback to fight smuggling.
  • Les milliards noirs des blondes et brunes (Black-market cigarette billions) and Quand la Suisse fume plus blanc (literally: “When Switzerland smokes whiter,” a reference to Swiss sociologist Jean Ziegler’s book about money-laundering in Switzerland, La Suisse lave plus blanc), Le Soir illustré, March 8th and 15th, 2000. This Belgian publication provides an interesting overview of smuggling in various parts of the world: Canada, Latin America, Europe, etc. The articles provide information on Switzerland’s role as the financial base for smugglers, as well as Antwerp’s role as a major transshipment point for black-market cigarettes.
  • Philip Morris Accused of Smuggling, Money-Laundering Conspiracy In Racketeering Lawsuit, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, May 23rd, 2000. A RICO civil suit, similar to the Canadian action, is filed against Philip Morris by the majority of Colombian state governments. Related reading on the small island of Aruba, located a few kilometres off the Colombian coast: The Rothschilds of the Mafia on Aruba (1997), a fascinating in-depth article by Dutch journalist Tom Blickman. Apart from its role as a crucial trans-shipment point for cigarette smuggling into Latin American (and into Canada), Aruba has also acquired a reputation as a major centre for drug smuggling and drug-money laundering.
  • Philip Morris Accused in Smuggling SchemeLos Angeles Times, May 25th, 2000.
  • Ecuador files suit against several tobacco companiesAssociated Press, June 6th, 2000. Ecuador has also filed under US RICO legislation.
  • BAT accused in smuggling caseGuardian, Aug. 2, 2000. Ecuador files against BAT as well.
  • “La justice suisse éclaboussée par un trafic de cigarettes,” (“The Swiss justice system is sullied by cigarette smuggling”), Le Monde, Aug. 30th, 2000. [no longer available for free] For several months, the Swiss canton of Ticino (Tessin) has been rocked by a major corruption scandal. The chief justice of the canton’s criminal court, Franco Verda, is accused of having links to an alleged smuggling king-pin by the name of Gerardo Cuomo, who was arrested in Zürich in May at the request of Italian authorities. The affair is considerably more complicated, as Cuomo, an Italian citizen, had been suspected of criminal activities since 1993 and had been stripped of his Swiss residency permit, but managed to stay in the country thanks to his connections in high places. Italy has been highly critical of Switzerland’s lack of co-operation with attempts to combat cigarette smuggling.
  • BAT faces punitive racketeering charges over Colombian cigarette smuggling, ASH UK press release, Sept. 21st, 2000, including full text of statement of claim filed against British American Tobacco.
  • BAT accused of criminalityGuardian, Sept. 22nd, 2000.
  • How can cigarette smuggling be reduced?, article by Luk Joossens and Martin Raw in the British Medical Journal, Oct. 14th, 2000.
  • Smuggling and cross-border shopping of tobacco products in the European Union, an excellent report by Luk Joossens for the UICC (International Union against Cancer) and the UK Health Development Agency. Despite the title, the information in this report is highly relevant to other parts of the world also.
  • {short description of image}Sur la côte adriatique, la contrebande de cigarettes a pris les dimensions d’une florissante industrie (“On the Adriatic coast, cigarette smuggling has become a flourishing industry”), Le Monde, Feb. 2nd, 2001.

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