SECRET WORLD OF
|SMUGGLING | Inside Out enters the world of tobacco
Inside Out delves into the murky
world of the "Black Economy" as they follow "Joe"and "Martin" on a smugglers' run. They cross the channel
several times a week, buying tobacco for resale in Britain.
Smugglers on this level are not rich people, they make
£200 per month from their shady dealings.
They are hard to spot because they do not bring much
contraband in at a time.
Are these people modern day Robin Hoods, or a drain on
the UK economy?
How does the "black economy" work?
- More contraband alcohol and tobacco passes through
the Port of Dover than anywhere else in the UK
- A day trip ticket to France from Dover can cost as
little as £1
- You can bring back as much tobacco and alcohol as
you can carry, providing of course, it is for your own personal use
- It is selling it on at a profit that is illegal
is to smuggle small amounts as often as he can|
Inside Out reporter Paul Ross asks Martin about his
plans, When are you next going over to France or to Belgium to bring
back some tobacco?
Tomorrow. Im going over tomorrow," replies
"And what kind of amount will you be coming back
with?" asks reporter Paul Ross.
"Sixty pouches of tobacco," says Martin.
"And is that the kind of amount that would not get
you noticed?" Paul quizzes.
"Thats right," says Martin.
Martin states that his motto is, "smuggle small
amounts as often you can."
He says that he has even used his girlfriend as "an
additional pair of hands."
The smuggling run
around £1 per pouch of tobacco|
Reporter Paul Ross asks Martin if Inside Out can follow
him on an actual smuggling run.
Before he will agree, Martin wants Paul Ross to meet
his business partner, Joe.
They meet at the aptly named Smugglers Bay just round
the corner from Dover harbour.
Joe says, "I buy a pouch of tobacco for £2.50,
I pass it on to another bloke for £3.50, he sells it on to members
of the public for £4.50.
"So each of us actually make £1 profit. The
member of the public buying it saves £5.10.
Now we all know Tony Blair does not smoke roll
ups, it's the poor, it's the working poor.
"Now, if I can put £5 in a poor mans
pocket, I believe it is reminiscent of Robin Hood and I am quite proud
to be helping poor people."
Reporter Paul asks Martin about the worst part of a smuggling
trip. Martin replies, "When you come back to Britain."
The return trip is the phase of maximum risk. Will the
smuggler get through? Would Customs and Excise stop them?
It all comes down to that five, 10 seconds going through
the Green Channel. If they stop a smuggler, what are they going to ask?
That must be the most stressful point.
Ironically, it is the British public who fund Martin
and Joes smuggling business.
The cash to buy the tobacco comes out of the fortnightly
Reporter Paul Ross confronts Martin, "You are signing
on, you are part of the 'black economy' because you are smuggling tobacco.
Are you a sponger?"
"No," replies Martin, "Put a job in front
of me and I will do it. They cannot find a job for me."
A UK customs perspective
|Smuggling - The Facts|
You can bring in as much as you like
for personal use
Customs may stop anyone with 3,200+
88% of retailers report
a fall in tobacco sales due to smuggling
26% of retailers are considering closing
25% have cut staff due to profit loss
93% of retailers feel the government
is not doing enough
29% know of smugglers supplying underage
For Martin and Joe the biggest single threat to their
smuggling enterprise is Her Majestys Customs and Excise.
Graham Hooker is the man in charge of clamping down on
the likes of Martin and Joe. He is head of Customs and Excise in the South
Graham says, "There are people who will organise
the unemployed and old age pensioners.
"They give them a day out for £40 but they
say in return for £40 we want you to bring back these carrier bags
or suitcases of cigarettes.
"And it is a slippery slope, I think, to start breaking
the law in a number of areas.
Naheed Mehmon, an Economist at Brighton University adds,
"On top of that, the more smugglers you have, the more damaging it
is to the economy.
"The government collects less tax so
the rest of us suffer because we suffer a loss in social security benefits,
schools, hospitals etc."
The Belgian connection
On arrival in Calais, the next step of the smuggling
run is to catch a free bus that waits outside the terminal. Destination
Why Belgium? Tobacco is 30% cheaper in Belgium so a thriving
industry has sprung up right on the border selling everything from cheap
cigarettes and spirits to rock bottom priced washing powder.
Once a quiet, rural hamlet, Adinkerke, on the Belgium
coast is now tobacco alley. Open seven days a week, 18 hours a day.
says she will sell anything from her Belgian shop|
Lesley Gill runs one of Adinkerkes 37 tobacco shops.
A Liverpudlian by birth, she will sell anything from
Persil washing powder to Golden Virginia tobacco. Her shop shifts goods
by the pallet load.
Inside Out reporter Paul Ross asks Lesley, "What
is the most anyone has ever bought off you, one person, where you thought,
you are taking the mickey with that?"
"One man comes over once a fortnight and spends
£15,000 on Golden Virginia tobacco," she replies.
Home and dry?
Taking the goods back into the UK is not illegal. You
can take as much or as little as you like and that is EU law.
Paul asks smuggler Martin, how many times a week on average
would he hope to come over and take this risk.
"Oh, it is a risk, yeah. Three, four times a week."
"Ok, and when will you sign on again?" asks
"Tomorrow," says Martin.
"So, you are signing on. You are taking the taxpayers
money, but you are not paying tax in the UK. Do you feel guilty Martin?" Paul continues.
"No. They cannot find me a job in Dover," Martin
Martin leaves to begin his return journey from Belgium
to the UK.
UK Customs could confiscate Martin's tobacco if
they suspect it is not for his own personal use. If the tobacco is confiscated
he waves goodbye to £150.
However, this time he slips through.