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Tobacco smuggling drops in Lebanon by 15%

Tobacco smuggling drops in Lebanon by 15%

BEIRUT: Cigarette and tobacco smuggling to Lebanon fell from 40 percent to 25 percent recently thanks to the tough measures adopted by the authorities, the head of tobacco Regie Company said here the other day.

“We have managed to crackdown on tobacco smuggling and thus boosted the revenues of the state,” Nassif Seklawi said.

The state-owned Regie Company monopolizes the export and import of tobacco, cigars and cigarettes.

Regie also subsidize the tobacco production in the south.

“Tobacco smuggling is a serious issue. In 2014 around 40 percent of the tobacco and cigarette that entered Lebanon were smuggled products which did not enter the customs or the legitimate border points,” Seklawi explained.

He added that this smuggling is costing the Lebanese treasury $200 million a year.

Most of the tobacco smuggling comes from Syria and some of the legitimate cigarette companies are collaborating with the smugglers to increase their profit margins.

The Regie warned the heads of tobacco sales departments in Lebanon that the authorities will cancel the sale contract if they discover even one smuggled cigarette pack.

Seklawi and Regie officials displayed samples of the smuggled cigars and cigarettes during the news conference.

Regie said that the search campaign has included over 1,500 stores across Lebanon and 800 fines were issued against the violators.

“The total fines we collected reached LL15 billion ($10 million), confiscated 40 means of transportation and revoked 16 licenses,” Seklawi said.

He added that the companies involved in the smuggling to Lebanon were forced to pay fines that are equal to the value of the smuggled goods.

Regie generates over $650 million from tobacco and cigarette trade each year.