Wednesday, 3 October 2012

New law proposes only 80 cigarettes to be allowed out of Gibraltar

Smuggling has a long history
At present, the total allowed per month is 200, if you live within 15k of the border - officially
SPAIN The area's tobacconists have been complaining for at least two years now, that their sales are down considerably, and not because people are buying less but because tobacco smuggling from Gibraltar has reached unprecedented proportions. Under new budget measures, Madrid is proposing to clamp down on this practice by slashing by over half the number of cigarettes allowed across the frontier. A new law that came into effect in June says thatSOON YOU WILL BE UNABLETO READ MORE WITHOUT A SUBSCRIPTIONif you live within 15 kilometres of the frontier, you can bring one carton -that is, 200 cigarettes or 10 packets of 20 - per month, while the previous allowance was three cartons. Now, the government is proposing that the amount be cut a lot more: to 80 cigarettes, or four packets - 'as a consequence of the abuse of rights being detected' and carried out by 'frontier workers and residents'. But they could go even lower, as EU law allows member governments to limit allowances to just two packs per person per month.

Pedestrian border queue
As usual, such measures hit the low-level smuggler first. The matuteros and matuteras, as the people who smuggle several packets on their person to bring them across are called, will probably be subjected to more intensive searches, making the often intolerably long pedestrian queues even worse. As for vehicle inspections, these are not likely to get any faster if the new law comes into effect.

Another matter is larger-scale contraband. Spanish media often put tobacco, drugs and cash together in the same sentence when mentioning Gibraltar as a smuggler's paradise. Mentioned less often are the profits made by tobacco importers - into Gibraltar. In other words, the businesses, large and small, that bring in the stuff that will soon become contraband. Figures are very hard to come by, as no freedom of information laws are in force on the Rock, and companies are private. It is widely believed, but hard to prove, that it accounts for a considerable proportion of the Rock's economy.

Even more difficult to find are figures about the amount of tobacco smuggling by cases -not cartons, not packets- by the more organized gangs that come largely from La Línea, but also from as far away as Cádiz, Sevilla and Málaga.

However, the area's official estanqueros (tobacconists), say their sales have dropped by up to 70% in some cases. The Asociación de Estanqueros de Cádiz believes that 25% of the tobacco smoked in the province is contraband, a figure that rises to 60% in places closer to the frontier. Understandably, they are delighted with the new measures.

The proposal is set for debate in parliament and, if approved (very likely) it would come into effect on January 1.

1 comment:

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