October 07, 2012 12:00:00 AM
Illicit tobacco trade if allowed to embed in the country can cause immeasurable harm, warns the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority.
Speaking at the opening of the two-day annual workshop on anti-illicit trade of tobacco products in Suva, General Manager Customs, Jone Louie said recent estimates revealed that approximately 11 per cent of the world cigarette market is illicit.
Globally, this represented over 600 billion cigarettes a year and annual government revenue losses of over US$40 billion.
“The challenges associated with illicit tobacco trade are becoming more complex,” Louie said.
“In addition to the vast amounts of government revenue loss, illicit tobacco trade also affects the economic and social fabric of our society."
“It obstructs economic development, undermines government policy objectives and the rule of law. It funds organised crime, terrorism and encourages the expansion in criminal activity."
"Furthermore, significant investments by the legitimate tobacco industry towards manufacturing, innovation, employment, branding, intellectual property rights are undermined."
He added that substantial profits derived from trafficking and successful law enforcement interdiction efforts in other countries have led perpetrators to develop sophisticated smuggling techniques.
“As custodians of our national border and the region, for that matter, we ensure the security of our borders and a safe environment conducive to economic development, growth and direct investment."
“No doubt, we all have limited resources to deal with everything that needs to be done – and those of us with greater resources will find them wasted if we act alone.”
He stressed the need for stakeholders to continue to work together to fight illicit tobacco trade.
“We need to accelerate our efforts to tackle this problem proactively. We must generate new ideas, questioning, forward planning, share key learnings and collaborate with other enforcement agencies, other national agencies and with the legitimate trade to enable us to optimise the use of the scarce resources we have to continue our efforts in
He added that there must be greater awareness created amongst other government agencies and the public of the implications of illicit tobacco trade.
"An innovative approach and building sustainable partnerships will enable us to transformour efforts and stop this global problem and the criminals who benefit from it from embedding themselves in Fiji," he concluded.
There have been reported cases of illicit tobacco trade in Fiji.
By Reginald Chandar