Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Border Region Development Brendan Smith TD has again called for a new multi-disciplinary Agency to be established to tackle cross border fuel and cigarette smuggling and associated criminal activity. The Cross Border Agency would bring together officials from Customs and Excise, An Garda Síochána and the PSNI to ramp up detection and impose stricter penalties on those convicted of illegal smuggling.
Deputy Smith explained, “The illegal fuel and tobacco trade has been casting an evil shadow across communities along the border. Many of those involved are not only career criminals, they also have links to paramilitary and dissident groups, which threaten to destabilise the society that was secured through decades of political and community engagement. This illicit trade impacts on communities north and south of the border and acts as a gateway into an underground criminal network.
“Customs and Excise, An Garda Síochána and the PSNI have made significant progress in tackling cross border smuggling, but more needs to be done. A specialised taskforce with dedicated resources could be used to co-ordinate the information already available about the individuals and gangs involved in this illegal trade and target them directly.
“Fianna Fáil brought forward a Bill earlier this year, which proposed a cross-border multi-agency taskforce to build on the work of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. We want to see tougher penalties including longer custodial sentences for people convicted of illegal smuggling. More robust legislation is needed to clamp down on this illicit activity and greater sanctions must be implemented to make it more difficult for these criminals to operate.
“It is not only the loss to the Exchequer that needs to be mitigated. These criminal gangs must be brought to task. This framework would put a structure in place which would target these cross border criminals directly and thereby vastly improve the lives of communities along the border and further afield”.