|Agencies investigating smugglers have dealt with 146,000 cases so far this year, collecting about VND9 trillion (US$424 million) in tax and VND500 billion ($23.8 million) in confiscated goods.— Photo nld
HA NOI (VNS) — Smuggling had become a national disease and operations had become increasingly complex, Nguyen Trong Tin, deputy head of the Market Watch Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said yesterday.
Tin, who was speaking at a forum organised by the Government's web portal, said staff shortages and outdated equipment had made it difficult for agencies to combat smugglers.
However, he promised that stronger efforts would be made.
Agencies investigating smugglers have dealt with 146,000 cases so far this year, collecting about VND9 trillion (US$424 million) in tax and VND500 billion ($23.8 million) in confiscated goods, according to a report from the National Steering Committee on Combating Smuggling, Commerical Fraud and Counterfeit Goods.
"We do not have enough people to fight the smugglers," Tin said. "The staff has been spread too thin across a vast border area. There are thousands and thousands of paths and alleys smugglers can take. Most teams only have three to five members, use outdated cars and equipment."
Tin said smugglers often took advantage of ineffective relations among agencies and at the local level to transport goods.
Nguyen Van Can, deputy head of Viet Nam Customs and chief of the secretariat of the steering committee, said that In coming months, sectors and ministries dealing with smugglers would increase inspections in hot-spot provinces, especially as the Lunar New Year draws near.
He said local officials and police must bear some responsibility when a high number of smugglers transport goods through their region.
Vu Van Cuong, chairman of the Viet Nam Tobacco Association, said the country was becoming a hotspot for cigarette smuggling. He predicted it would cost the State VND8 trillion ($377 million) in lost taxes this year.
"Tobacco smuggling can generate profits 30 times higher than selling domestic cigarettes," Cuong said. "It affects the entire industry, which includes about five million workers."
Cuong said the Government wanted to put a 65 per cent consumption tax on cigarettes, aiming to earn more from their sale and discourage use. However, consumers can buy smuggled cigarettes for less.
He called on the Fund for Prevention and Control of Tobacco Harm, which operates on contributions from tobacco manufacturers, to finance more equipment for fighting tobacco smuggling.
Tobacco manufacturers have also provided financial support for authorities to destroy smuggled cigarettes.
Under current rules, smugglers will face criminal charges if they are caught transporting 1,500 cigarette packets or more. However, many split their goods into smaller portions, making it difficult to charge them. — VNS