WASHINGTON: Contraband cigarette smugglers, sellers and smokers, you have been warned. Customs has announced an extensive crackdown on the black market for contraband cigarettes, with anything from shops to band clubs and even private residences in officials’ sights. In a statement announcing the anti-contraband operation, Customs singled out four brands of cigarettes smuggled into Malta – Business Royals, American Legend, Manchester and Tradition – and noted that a court had recently sent a smuggler to jail for six months and fined them €13,082.
Customs said that it would be cracking down on the trade by tackling the supply of contraband cigarettes, by identifying smugglers and intercepting shipments, as well as their demand. Shop owners, hawkers, band clubs of all sorts and seafarers would be harshly dealt with if they were caught selling the cigarettes. People smoking them will not be spared either: individuals, homes, garages, warehouses and private vehicles all fall within the crackdown’s remit, Customs said.
According to the law, anyone caught with even a single contraband cigarette is liable to a €250 fine and to pay outstanding taxes. “Every euro in excise duty lost means one less euro to spend on healthcare, education, pensions and other social services,” Customs said in its statement. Earlier this year, Customs officials seized 25,000 contraband cigarettes after raiding a garage in Fgura. In a separate case, the courts fined a man caught with tens of thousands of contraband cigarettes €50,000. Anyone with information about places or individuals selling contraband cigarettes can contact Customs confidentially on 25685124 (24 hours a day) or 25685200 (Monday to Friday, 8am – 3pm).