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Vietnam: Tobacco Firms Rue Weak Anti-smuggling Campaign

The domestic tobacco industry hopes that the Government can be more effective in fighting an impending surge in smuggling that causes losses amounting to trillions of dong to the State Budget.

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A report in the Cong Thuong (Industry and Trade) Newspaper last week quoted Pham Kien Nghiep, the General Secretary of the Viet Nam Tobacco Association’s (VTA), as saying: “Current legal sanctions are ineffective to deal with tobacco smugglers, who include both local residents and carriers from elsewhere.”

Nghiep said he was aware that the law enforcement agencies faced a difficult task since the smugglers were fighting back to protect their goods and also managing to escape when stopped.

Under current rules, smugglers will face criminal charges if they are caught transporting 1,500 cigarette packets or more. However, they spilt their goods into smaller portions, making it difficult to charge them with the crime.

In addition, local administrations had not dealt firmly with this issue and had not co-operated well with each other, Nghiep said.

He said the Government had issued a new policy that was expected to improve the role and responsibility of local administrations in fighting tobacco smuggling.

The Prime Minister has suggested reducing the number of tobacco packs from 1,500 to 500 packs and that local authorities take full responsibility and face sanctions for allowing tobacco smuggling to spread widely.

VTA reports that 440 million cigarette packs have been smuggled into Viet Nam in the first nine months of this year, up 30 to 40 per cent over the previous year. Contraband tobacco accounts for 25 per cent of the market, it says.

Nghiep said that rising demand for tobacco during holidays would make the fight against smuggling more tense towards the end of the year.

He said smugglers often took advantage of the flooding season to double or even triple the quantity of contraband brought into the country. But the amount of tobacco seized by law enforcement agencies was tiny compared to what was smuggled in, he added.

A VTA report says six million cigarette packets have been seized nation-wide in the first nine months of the year, and 24 cases taken to court.

During this period, the number of packets seized in HCM City was one million, while it is estimated that a million packets are smuggled into the city everyday.

In An Giang Province, the Market Watch Bureau and local administration have only seized 500,000 cigarette packets in the first nine months, as against 300,000 packets smuggled in everyday, the report says.

 

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