On 10th February 2021 the Customs Administration of the Republic of North Macedonia filed criminal charges to the Public Prosecutor's Office in Gevgelija against two legal entities based in Tetovo and Gevgelija and 3 responsible persons, suspected of committing "Illicit trade in intermediate products, ethyl alcohol and tobacco goods which is punishable under Article 60, paragraph 5 and paragraph 6 in relation to paragraph 1 of the Law on Excise Duties.

The case involves imported 146,278 kg raw tobacco (net weight), illegally released on the market in the excise area, without paying 281,585,150.00 denars excise duties and interest for late payment of 12,505,380.66 denars or a total of 294,090,531 denars, i.e. over 4.7 million euros.

Namely, it is about ten imports of tobacco in the type of type "Virginia" realized by the legal entity from Gevgelija in December 2017 and throughout the year of 2018, after which the imported tobacco, instead of being processed, was illegally released on the market without payment of excise duties.

In coordination with the Public Prosecutor's Office in Gevgelija, inspectors from the Investigation Department of the Customs Administration conducted searches at several locations in Skopje to provide evidence related to the case.

Considering the huge damages from the illegal sale of cut tobacco in the country, the Customs Administration in coordination with the Market Inspectorate and the National Coordination Center for Suppression of Organized and Serious Crime - Public Security Bureau – Interior Ministry and other competent state institutions conducts regular controls aimed at suppression of the illegal sale of tobacco and tobacco products.

"The actions of the Customs Administration and the State Market Inspectorate is another indicator that there is no compromise when it comes to violating the laws and damaging the budget in a corrupt and criminal way, in this case illicit trade in tobacco.

As coordinator of the competent anti-corruption institutions, including the Customs Administration and the inspection services, I was thoroughly informed about the case and was in constant communication and coordination with the Administration and the State Market Inspectorate. Tax evasion such as excise duty is one of the risk factors for corruption in the import and export of goods, which seriously damage the budget. I encourage the Customs Administration, the State Market Inspectorate and other competent institutions to continue with the coordinated and intensive actions for suppression of the illegal sale of tobacco and tobacco products. "We will not allow anyone to profit on the backs of the citizens, the tobacco producers, and the companies that work honestly, legally and pay taxes to the state" - said Deputy Prime Minister Nikolovski.

Only in the last few days, within the regular activities of the Customs Investigation Department and the State Market Inspectorate, several raids aimed at illegal sale of cut tobacco on the green markets have been successfully realized, seizing 284.5 kg of cut tobacco intended for illegal sales and 413 boxes of 200 pieces or a total of 82,600 pieces of cigarette filters. The State Market Inspectorate imposed fines in 11 cases of unregistered activity.

The illegal sale of cut tobacco endangers the health of the citizens and is accompanied by non-compliance with the provisions of several laws and bylaws, which damage the state and its budget.

"Cigarettes and cut tobacco are excise products, subject to excise duty and when they are in retail, they must be marked with control stamps. The excise stamps are a confirmation that the excise and other duties have been paid for those products, but also that a quality control has been performed. The excise products have a 22% share in the total taxes collected by the state, and 13% share in the budget revenues.

Over 40% of excise revenues come from cigarettes and tobacco products. If we consider the amount of the budget, it is a significant source of income. "- said Customs Director General Sugareski.

The Customs Administration, as one of the key institutions for suppression and prevention of this phenomenon, in coordination with other state institutions takes serious and concrete action at different levels and from different aspects, all focused on combating illegal sale of cut tobacco in the country and eliminating the grey economy and maintaining the planned state budget revenues.

 

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