VID: alcohol smuggling levels relatively low in Latvia

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Alcohol smuggling is not extensive in Latvia, and the situation with illegal cigarette rates is improving, the Director of the State Revenue Service (VID) Tax and Customs Police Board, General Kaspars Podiņš, told Latvian Radio on June 26.

“Last year we removed 112,000 liters of spirits, in 2018 there were 930,000 liters. More illegal drinks are produced on the spot. (..) We have a problem with smuggling alcohol from Poland,” Podiņš said.

He emphasized that illegal alcohol is relatively less common, compared to smuggling cigarettes in Latvia.

VID estimates show that 67% of illegal cigarettes are imported into Latvia from Belarus. However, the situation is also slowly but improving.

“Compared to 2018, when illegal cigarette volume was 19.5% in Latvia, there was a decrease to 14.1% in 2019. For comparison, I can tell you that in 2014, illegal cigarette volume was 35% in Latvia. So the trends are pleasant,” Podiņš said.

Last year, VID removed more than 14 million illegal cigarettes and tobacco. In terms of reducing illegal cigarettes, Latvia has outpaced countries such as Greece, Ireland, the UK and Lithuania, where the situation is worse, and has caught up to France and Cyprus.

However, Podiņš stressed that there are countries where illegal cigarette volumes are around 10%. For example, in Estonia and Finland.

Kaspars Podiņš is skeptical about further improvement, since the marketing of menthol cigarettes is now prohibited in Latvia and the first cases of illegal imports of these cigarettes have already emerged. This means that organized crime has a new market to work on because demand is high. Last year, official menthol cigarette sales reached as much as 17% of the total.

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