Police seize $400 million in illegal cigarettes
Marcus Steele, managing director of Carreras Ltd, is baffled at how large quantities of counterfeit cigarettes are continuously being allowed to pass through the nation's ports.
His latest concerns come after the police seized fake cigarettes valued at more than $400 million at a house in St James yesterday.
"It's coming through the ports and I always said: 'How can over $400 million of cigarette walk through the port? It's not making any sense to me," he said.
Steele believes that there is a direct link between the increase in taxation on cigarettes and the illicit trade of the product.
He said the increase was extremely damaging both to the legal trade and the government revenue.
"They (Government) wanted $800 million when they implemented that. They not only didn't get $800 million more but they received almost a billion dollars less than what they got the last year," he told THE STAR.
When the prices of cigarettes increase because of taxation, he said persons who sell illegal cigarettes benefit because of their cheap prices.
"They continue to bring in these cigarettes, pay no taxes, sell at $25 and $30 a stick, the consumers are going to continue to purchase it, and the Government gets not one dollar of revenue from it," he argues.
He said the country will continue to suffer huge loses if the illegal trade is not stopped.
"This requires full attention because the Government is losing billions of dollars each year because of this illicit trade and until the Government decides to take it seriously, we are going to successfully convert this market, to me, from a legal market to an illicit market," he told THE STAR.