16 Aug 2014
The European anti-fraud agency OLAF has recently announced that between 2009 and 2013 the European Union (EU) lost €700 million in taxes as smugglers cross into Spain to sell cigarettes at half the prices.
Two hundred Marlboro in Spain are €47, compared to €18.50 in Gibraltar. However, it is trivial compared to the estimated €10.9 billion lost throughout the EU, with 10 percent of all EU cigarettes being illegal.
The irony is that many British visitors see Spain as a cheap place to buy cigarettes. By comparison the UK price is an eye watering €120. Between 2006 and 2011, the amount of tobacco imported into Gibraltar tripled and organised crime has exported it to the mainland. It is also one of the pretexts for Spain to hold time-consuming searches of Gibraltar cars in their attempt to pressure the British government into relinquishing control of the territory.
The authorities both sides of the border have been hand-wringing under the mantra that something must be done, however much of it may well be in vain.