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Customs foils cigarette smuggling

For immediate release 6th June 2002

Customs foils cigarette smuggling

Customs has foiled an attempt to smuggle almost two million cigarettes into New Zealand.

The cigarettes, with a market value of nearly $900,000, were found concealed inside furniture inside a shipping container that had been targeted for inspection by Customs staff.

The Government stood to miss out on in excess of half a million dollars worth of tax, if the cigarettes had not been intercepted.

Acting Customs Minister Jim Anderton congratulated Customs on the seizure.

"Customs targets its inspections by being on the alert for any unusual or suspicious signs. This seizure is an example of that system working extremely well.

“Smuggled cigarettes are brought in to avoid paying excise tax and GST. These taxes make a contribution towards the health costs created by smoking and to smoking prevention campaigns.

“What is also a concern is that these cigarettes could have been more accessible to children and young people and I am pleased they have been seized.”

Customs Revenue Fraud Unit spokesperson Terry Brown says the shipment originated in China. The importer had claimed the shipment was a load of furniture.

Customs is continuing to talk to the importer and pursue lines of inquiry overseas. Terry Brown says a decision on what charges will be laid will be made after further investigations.

However he says the penalties under the Customs and Excise Act for defrauding the revenue of Customs are significant, including imprisonment and the prospect of a fine not exceeding three times the value of the goods to which the offence relates.

The cigarettes were branded Marlboro, and a representative from the company Philip Morris will be evaluating whether they are genuine or counterfeit products

…/ends

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