The FWD has welcomed the government’s renewed strategy for tackling tobacco smuggling but has warned that appropriate resources must be put into preventing theft of tobacco products from the legitimate supply chain.
While applauding HM Revenue amp; Customs and the UK Border Agency’s successes in reducing the influx of smuggled cigarettes and rolling tobacco, and the government’s £900m investment in tackling tax avoidance and evasion, FWD is calling for equally effective measures to crack down on theft of these products from stores, wholesale depots and delivery vehicles.
Chief executive James Bielby said: “An unfortunate consequence of the successful tobacco smuggling strategy is that the criminal gangs who flood the streets with illegal products are unlikely to go away – they will simply look closer to home for their supplies. FWD collects data on criminal activity from its members, and it is clear that tobacco products are the target for thefts from their premises and vehicles. Reports of thefts from customers in cash and carry car parks are also increasing.
“Wholesale staff, shop workers and delivery drivers are put at risk by this criminal activity and we would like to see government and the police treating theft of this kind as a priority when setting sentencing guidelines and allocating resources to prevention and prosecution.”
The FWD’s Criminal Intelligence Database collates details of incidents and suspicious activity against members. This data is distributed to members to inform them of the tactics used by the criminals, and to share intelligence that might lead to prosecution. FWD also produces leaflets warning cash amp; carry customers to be aware of the potential threat from tobacco thieves and advising them on how to minimise the risk of being targeted.