Many illegal cigs ‘slipping through S’pore to EU’

Many illegal cigs ‘slipping through S’pore to EU’

SINGAPORE- Many illegal tobacco products are still slipping through the Customs net in Singapore and entering the European Union (EU), according to one of its top officials.

The EU's Commissioner for Taxation, Customs, Statistics, Audit and Anti-Fraud Algirdas Semeta, speaking to The Straits Times, said the illegal transshipment of tobacco products between the EU and Singapore is still high despite the authorities' best efforts.

"According to our estimates, the transshipment of counterfeit or smuggled tobacco products from Singapore is relatively high," said Mr Semeta.

He was here last month for meetings with government and business representatives on a range of issues, including the recently initialled EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, and international developments on tax and Customs governance.

He added that his talks with government representatives included discussions on how enforcement might be stepped up against tobacco smuggling.

Cigarette smugglers do not pay duties to the local government when they bring their goods into a country.

A Singapore Customs spokesman said the country sees its "fair share" of cigarettes that are smuggled in but internationally, it is well-recognised that smuggled cigarettes seldom originate here.

The Singapore Customs seized about 1.9 million packets of contraband cigarettes in the first nine months of this year - an 84 per cent increase compared with the 1.03 million packets seized in the same period last year.

Singapore takes a "strong and serious" view against cigarette smuggling. However, enforcement cannot be the sole responsibility of the transshipment port, said the spokesman.

"Rather, this must be done through the collective efforts of all players in the entire supply chain, including the destination and source where enforcement actions may be more effectively carried out," he added.

In his interview with The Straits Times, Mr Semeta also said the economic reforms implemented in the EU "have been painful but have also started to deliver results".

He said: "Everything is still relatively fragile but nowadays, nobody talks about the break-up of the euro zone... We have already reached the turning point and our forecasts demonstrate that economic growth is expected to exceed 1 per cent next year."

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