Increasing tobacco tax contributes to illicit trade - Steele
Managing director of Carreras Jamaica Marcus Steele has again called on Government, along with the Jamaica Customs Agency, to fast-track the implementation of stronger port- and border-protection measures to stem the flow of illegal cigarettes into the island.
Steele's restatement comes on the heels of yesterday's operation during which the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Branch (C-TOC) of the Jamaica Constabulary Force seized more than $80m worth of illegal cigarettes in St Andrew.
Six persons were arrested and taken in for questioning.
"These successive major finds and the rising incidence of illegal cigarettes in the marketplace point to the illicit traders being seemingly unfazed by the current penalties ascribed for being caught," Steele said.
"We are therefore appealing to the Government to vigorously pursue and bring to justice those persons involved in the illicit trade and, in tandem, to review and reform the fines, penalties and sanctions for dealing in and being caught with illicit cigarettes," he added.
Less than a month ago, C-TOC seized 890 cases of illegal cigarettes valued at approximately $534 million. This was one of the largest seizures of illicit smokes in recent time.
Steele said that these big seizures were a clear indication of C-TOC's resolve to stamp out illegal cigarettes in the domestic market.
"The company continues to impress upon the Government the need for a sustainable tobacco [tax] policy that recognises the direct link between increasing tobacco [tax] and the proliferation of illegal cigarettes within the market. Carreras remains ready to support the Government in the fight against illicit trade," Steele said.
Assistant Superintendent of Police Victor Barrett of C-TOC said they are working closely with Customs, but criminals continue to make their tasks challenging.
"The challenge that we face is the fact that the criminals are masking the products. They are stealing containers off the wharf, and they are using our coastal waters to ply their trade. The illicit trade is of grave concern to us. However, we at
C-TOC continue to enforce the law with the ultimate aim to protect our country and citizens," Barrett said.