Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Contraband tobacco doubles since 2010

LA LINEA (Agencies) The amount of tobacco seized at the frontier by the Guardia Civil has increased significantly so far this year. According to data supplied by the frontier post, some 262,104 packs of cigarrettes have been confiscated, largely at the border itself (203,533), from January to the end of April. This compares with the 116,958 taken in the same period last year, an increase of over 50%. The number of vehicles seized at the border has also increased, the vast majority of which contained smuggled tobacco: 569 vs 309. Guardia sources say that much i of the increase is owed to an equal increase in the number of controls being carried out, at the border and beyond, as does the force's strict application of the law that limits to 200 cigarettes per month per person that is allowed through. Traditional methods of smuggling have also changed.>Known as matuteo, whereby packs are hidden about a person, usually but not always by women, the method does continue although now mostly by people from outside the area -increasingly from the Bay of Cadiz- who are less well known to the agents at the frontier. In most cases, four or five people go into Gibraltar in a vehicle to load up with petrol and bring out tobacco. Later, they return on foot taking advantage of scheduled changes at the guard posts, and bring out several more cartons.

Another change is the smuggling of roll-up tobacco, which has shown a considerable increase as well. Spanish smokers, probably owing to large increases in locally available cigarette brands, have taken up this smoking method, too. The Guardia have also noticed an upswing in Gibraltar residents passing, or trying to pass, tobacco in their vehicles as they leave Gibraltar.

What does not appear to have increased, however, is massive entry of smuggled tobacco along the coastline, as used to happen several years ago. Prospero was once stopped some hundred yards from the border, along the front in plain daylight on a busy day, by a man who emerged from the beach and halted a considerable amount of traffic towards Campamento, while four or five men ran past behind him carrying boxes of contraband clearly marked with the Winston logo. He smiled and waved a thank you when they had finished.

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