Malta joins anti-cigarette smuggling network
Malta has just joined a network, originally set up in 2004 by the EU, 11 of its member states and the multi-national cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris International, aimed at fighting cigarette smuggling.
The European Commission said on Tuesday that another 13 member states, including Malta, have now signed the anti-contraband and anti-counterfeit agreement with Philip Morris International Inc, bringing the total number of signatory EU members to 24.
According to Sim Kallas, the EU commissioner responsible for the fight against fraud, this landmark agreement, which calls for substantially enhanced cooperation on many fronts in the fight against the shared problem of illegal trade in cigarettes, has proved to be highly effective.
"This cooperation to date has exceeded all expectations and sets an example of what industry and law enforcement can do when they work together in pursuit of a common goal," he said.
The 2004 agreement allows Philip Morris International to work closely with the European Commission, its anti-fraud office Olaf, and law enforcement authorities in its member states to help in the fight against contraband, including the rapidly growing problem of counterfeit cigarettes.
The agreement includes substantial payments by Philip Morris International, which could total about $1.25 billion over 12 years.
According to the Commission, the agreement builds on the efforts of all parties and introduces new and innovative procedures to combat the diversion of cigarettes into contraband channels in Europe and around the world.
Other main components of the agreement are the "tracking and tracing" protocols, which have allowed Olaf and the member states rapidly to re-create the route taken by genuine smuggled cigarettes from the factory into the hands of smugglers.