Combating tobacco smuggling becomes more difficult

16:39 | 22/08/2017 Economy- Society

(VEN) - Recently, tobacco smuggling has increased remarkably and continues to get more complicated, especially in southwestern provinces. While anti-smuggling works have not showed effectiveness, financial sanctions on tobacco smuggling during this time has been seen to be "loosened”, creating favorable conditions for smugglers to operate.  

Tobacco smuggling sharply increases

According to Long An provincial Steering Committee 389, tobacco smuggling has recently sharply increased. Functional forces in the province have seized shipments of smuggled cigarettes in large quantities. For example, on July 26, the police of Duc Hue District coordinated with the police of My Quy Dong commune arrested a vehicle carrying more 16,200 packets of foreign cigarettes of different brands. Earlier, in only one week from June 7 -13/2017, police force in Duc Hue district had also caught 28,700 packs of smuggled cigarettes and vehicles.

The provincial Steering Committee 389 reported that, these are just two of many cases of smuggled cigarettes discovered in recent period. Although anti-smuggling forces have made great efforts in combating tobacco smuggling, the situation has been becoming more complicated with more serious scale and violation levels because of high profits. Particularly, the transportation of smuggled cigarettes by cars in large quantities has become "popular" by sophisticated tricks. Recently, the police of Kien Tuong town (Long An) even discovered a case in which smugglers used state-owned vehicles carrying 14,400 packs of smuggled cigarettes.

The number of cigarette smuggling cases detected, according to the National Steering Committee 389, was modest compared to reality because cigarettes are light, easy to transport, high profit at 350%, while evading all kind of taxes including: excise duty of 70%; value added tax 10%; and the import tax of 135%.

In addition, the inconsistency in legal documents in handling tobacco smuggling has created difficulties for cigarette anti-smuggling forces. This is also an opportunity for smugglers to carry cigarettes across the border.

On June 20, the National Assembly passed the amendment of the Penal Code 2015, which amends Article 190, and 191 to sentence violators from 1 year up to 5 years for cases of smuggling of cigarettes from 1,500 to 3,000 packs; from 5 to 10 years for transporting 3000 under 4,500 packs; and up to 15 years when trading 4,500 smuggled cigarettes or more...

However, the amended Penal Code will not come into force untill August 1, 2018. Moreover, the Supreme People's Court has issued Official Letter 154 / TANDTC-PC on guidance of handling cigarette smuggling cases in the inland. Accordingly, from July 1, 2015 to January 1, 2018, smuggled cigarettes will not be identified as illegal goods and therefore storing, transporting and trading cigarettes in the inland will not be handled by the Criminal Code following the Article 155 of the Penal Code No. 15/1999/QH10.

There are concerns that from now to the end of 2017, the loosened legal documents will creat a great loophole and be a "golden time" for cigarette smuggling activities in Vietnam.

Strengthen measures to control the situation

To combat the widespread of cigarette smuggling at the end of this year, on June 19, Standing Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh, who is also Head of the National Steering Committee 389 issued Document 6326/VPCP-VI requesting the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Public Security to direct border guard forces and public security forces to launch a crackdown on cigarettes and sugar smuggling; tighten goods inspection and take drastic measures to end large-scale smuggling rings in key regions like An Giang, Long An, Tay Ninh, Dong Thap, Quang Tri and Ho Chi Minh City.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) also issued Directive No. 7127 on strengthening cigarette and sugar anti-smuggling. Accordingly, the MoIT asked Departments of Industry and Trade of centrally-governed provinces and cities to strictly implement directions of the Prime Minister, the National Steering Committee 389, and the MoIT on the fight against smuggling and trade fraud and counterfeit goods.

MoIT also directs the market management forces to strengthen inspections in their areas, actively coordinate with local functional forces to set up checkpoints in roads and rivers where smuggled cigarettes are regularly transported into the domestic market.

Departments of Industry and Trade of Quang Tri, Tay Ninh, Long An, Dong Thap, An Giang, Kien Giang, the northern border provinces and neighboring provinces direct the market management forces to coordinate with the police, Customs, Border Guards strictly control border areas, routes linking the border into the inland, inter-district and inter-provincial border areas.

In big cities and provinces like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Can Tho, Quang Ninh, Hai Phong and other areas, the market management forces are directed to inspect enterprises, household businesses, and agencies in order to detect and prevent the entry of smuggled cigarettes and sugar and strictly handle the violations.

According to forecasts from the Vietnam Tobacco Association, from now until the end of 2017, cigarette smuggling activities will continue to become complicated and the fight against it will be more and more difficult. The Association also proposed the Prime Minister instruct centrally-governed ministries and sectors and localities to implement drastic measures and provide support in terms of human resources and tools to functional agencies to timely cope with the current cigarette smuggling.

Chairman of the Vietnam Tobacco Association Vu Van Cuong requested “The Prime Minister should continue to pay attention, provide favorable conditions to the fight against cigarette smuggling in order to increase State budget revenue, and protect consumers and legitimate businesses in the country”.

Thuy Ha