The government is introducing a stricter framework against smuggling, with higher penalties and with rewards for anyone who offers information about those illegally trading in smuggled goods.
The bill put up for consultation on Tuesday provides for jail terms of up to 10 years, fines reaching up to 250,000 euros and the closure of premises for up to three months for violators, whose names will be published.
Anyone who supplies information about illegal activities related to fuel, tobacco or alcohol smuggling will get a cash reward or a 20% share of the value of the confiscated goods, which may be auctioned, depending on the case.
The draft law also provides for the creation of registers for professionals active in the sectors of fuel, tobacco and alcohol trading, so that the Independent Authority for Public Revenue has a complete picture of the market and for anyone performing a transaction to know who they are cooperating with. Upon registering, each trader in alcoholic beverages will get a unique identification number.
The register will also record all tanks used for the professional storage or transport of energy commodities. For every violation regarding the capacity or standards of tanks, the owner will face a fine of €500 to €15,000. The amount of the fine will depend on the type and seriousness of each violation.
Finance Ministry officials say the objective is to have all systems created in recent years contribute to the combating of smuggling. The government is particularly concerned about fuel and tobacco product smuggling, as its containment could create the fiscal space required to implement ruling New Democracy’s financial program that the pandemic has frozen earlier.
State losses from contraband cigarettes are estimated at €700 million per year, while fuel smuggling shaves €300-€500 million off public revenues every 12 months and illegal alcoholic drinks cost Greece some €42 million per annum.
According to a KPMG report, the consumption of contraband cigarettes in the European Union in 2018 amounted to 8.6% of the overall consumption of cigarettes, while in Greece that rate stood at 23.6%.