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Black market and retail crime 'costing Ireland €861m a year'

Retail Ireland says one-eighth of all diesel sold in Ireland is illegal, while one in six people have made illegal downloads.

A Customs official shows tobacco seized during a raid last year. Retail Ireland believes illegal tobacco sales are costing the State over €500 million a year.
A Customs official shows tobacco seized during a raid last year. Retail Ireland believes illegal tobacco sales are costing the State over €500 million a year.
Image: James Horan/Photocall ireland

RETAIL CRIME and black markets are costing the Irish government about €861 million a year – a figure that is set to rise, a new report has said.

A report compiled by IBEC sub-group Retail Ireland says shoplifting, fuel smuggling, and the sale of smuggled cigarettes are all taking their toll on Exchequer income.

The group is calling for a zero tolerance approach to retail theft and smuggling, including a system of rewards for whistleblowers who reveal illegal practices elsewhere.

The report believes the State is losing €526 million a year through illegal tobacco, which is smuggled into Ireland and sold without any government taxes or duties. The group estimates that almost a quarter of cigarettes sold in Ireland are sourced from the black market.

Fuel laundering costs an estimated €155 million in tax losses – based on estimates that one in every eight litres of diesel sold in Ireland is illegal.

Shoplifting and other forms of retail theft cost about €110 million, presumably through lost VAT income.

Petrol theft loses €3.5 million for the State, while counterfeit goods contribute a loss of €62 million.

The report also estimates that 770,000 people – approximately one-sixth of the entire population of the Republic of Ireland – have engaged in some sort of illegal music or movie downloading. This has cost €4.5 million to the Exchequer alone, the report suggests.

Among the recommendations in the report are to cut back on Garda allocations for routine road traffic policing so that further resources can be put into tackling illegal trades.

The report also suggests that people found guilty of any activity that results in a loss to the Exchequer should have the value of that loss deducted from their current and future State benefits.

“An awareness campaign should be launched alerting taxpayers about the additional burden they have to pay because of the criminal actions of a few,” it also adds.

In full: Retail Ireland’s report on the black market (PDF) >

Read: Senator calls for crackdown on €250m-a-year illegal cigarette market

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Gavan Reilly

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