ROBIN Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Assembly member and UUP Leader, has called on the local community to rally behind any campaigns by the Trading Standards and HMRC “to effectively stamp out the millions of pounds being lost to criminals peddling illicit tobacco”.
Assemblyman Swann issued his appeal to constituents as he gave his “full support” to the Policing Board’s awareness raising campaign on how illicit tobacco sales were helping to fund organised crime and criminality.
Mr Swann said the statistics supplied concerning the seizures by HMRC and the Border Force of cigarettes and roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco are “staggeringly alarming”.
Mr Swann added: “Given these alarming figures, while it is very good news that this illicit tobacco has been taken out of circulation, the community has its pivotal role to play in putting these criminals permanently out of business by giving information to the Trading Standards or HMRC.
“The community must work hand in hand with Trading Standards, whose officers are active in towns across Northern Ireland, and indeed in our constituency, often using sniffer dogs to identify hidden illegal products in retail outlets, markets and car boot sales.
“It is absolutely vital that the law enforcement agencies have the necessary information to crack down on these illicit sales.
“Of equal concern as well as the loss of revenue is the fact that these criminals do not care who they sell this illicit tobacco to, and there is the real danger to underage people’s health.
“Illegal sales also undermine legitimate businesses, putting jobs at risk and give huge profits to the criminals.
“It is, therefore, absolutely essential that the powers that be are given whatever means they require to stamp out this criminality which posed a severe threat to the health and wealth of the community,” said Assemblyman Swann.
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