Ukraine announces legislation to tackle EU tobacco smuggling

Since the introduction of the visa-free zone between the EU and the Ukraine in 2017, tobacco smuggling has been a serious concern. The number of goods being smuggled from countries like the UAE and China through Ukraine has increased, including cigarettes and tobacco.

In light of this, the EU has been mounting pressure on the Ukraine to take steps to stop this. Some of these steps would include bringing Ukraine in line with the commitments it made under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and pushing harder to criminalise smuggling and enforce those laws.

After several years of waiting for Ukraine to take action, a draft has now been announced that will fully criminalise tobacco smuggling. This is now waiting for approval by the Ukrainian parliament and it’s expected to be introduced by the end of this year, or at the latest, early 2020.

The draft law – named “Criminalisation of Illegally Imported Excise Goods”, which includes tobacco products – suggests that a large increase in fines could be introduced to combat the issue. Plus, steps would be taken to ensure criminal liability is enforced for smuggling.

The Ukraine mission said: “Thus, for the first offence, the fine will be from 3,000 to 5,000 tax-free minimums, of course, with confiscation of goods. Then, from 5,000 to 10,000 tax-free minimums for smuggling committed in an organised group – from 15 to 25 thousand tax-free minimums.”

“Besides, the Head of the Customs Service, Mr Maksym Nefiodov, advocates for the return to customs divisions the functions of operational investigative activity and the increasing of responsibility for smuggling, in particular for highly marginal goods. He noted that now the illegal movement of goods is punishable by the seizure of goods and a fine of 100% of their value,” it added.

Although 2018 saw lower levels of smuggling than the previous year, it’s clear to the EU that, without criminalising tobacco smuggling, it would be unlikely to see any real results. According to EU officials, in the case of Ukraine, more action needs to be taken to strengthen border controls and to enforce tougher laws on tobacco smuggling in the future.

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