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Profits attract tobacco smugglers

Update: September, 10/2014 - 08:36
Customs officials inspect smuggled cigarette packets seized at a warehouse in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang. About 8,000 smuggling cases have been reported in the first eight months of this year. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Hung

HA NOI (VNS) — Lured by the chance to make high profits, more people are turning to tobacco smuggling.

Nearly 8,000 smuggling cases were discovered in the first eight months of 2014, according to the Market Watch Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Authorities dealt with 4,700 cases, imposing VND14 billion (US$636,000) in fines and confiscating one million packs of smuggled tobacco, in addition to eight cars, 432 motorbikes and seven boats that were used to transport the products. Only 21 cases were prosecuted, as those transporting less than 1,500 packs of cigarettes are not subject to criminal prosecution.

However, despite these efforts by authorities, smugglers had found various ways to continue their illegal activities, Chairman of the Viet Nam Tobacco Association Vu Van Cuong said at a national conference in the central city of Da Nang last week. They often found new roads and waterways across borders and transported under 1,500 packs of cigarettes to avoid criminal prosecution if caught.

"Profits from smuggling tobacco have doubled in recent years, so more people do it," Cuong said, explaining that while one cigarette cost VND8,000 ($0.36) at the border gate, the price increased to VND15,000-16,000 ($0.7) in Ha Noi and HCM City.

Although smuggling was still focused in border cities and provinces like Quang Tri, Tay Ninh, Long An, Dong Thap, An Giang and Kien Giang, it had also spread to other areas.

"Tobacco smuggling used to happen only in border cities and provinces in the Mekong Delta region, but now it is happening everywhere in the country," Cuong said.

Representatives from local market watch teams predicted that smuggling would increase in the next months as the flooding season in the Mekong Delta (September through November) submerged the region, making it easy for smugglers to take advantage of waterways.

Nguyen Trong Tin, Deputy Director of the Market Watch Department, urged local market watch teams to co-ordinate with police, customs and border guard sectors and regularly exchange information. In border cities and provinces, authorities should set up mobile inspection stations, he said, while authorities in big markets for smuggled tobacco like Ha Noi, HCM City, Da Nang, Can Tho, Quang Ninh and Hai Phong should organise regular inspections of shops and enterprises. He also recommended that fines for smuggling be increased. — VNS

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