Kosovo: Smuggling halves cigarette import

Prishtinë, Dec 9, 2005 – Kosovo is importing half of the amount of cigarettes is used to import in the previous years.

The increase of the excise tax from 2 € to 17 € per kg of cigarettes apparently resulted in an increased smuggling. Less and less cigarettes are being imported. There are suspicions of enormous increase of smuggling.

About 18.6 m kg of cigarettes were imported in Kosovo in the last six months of 2004, which is about 300 kg per month, when the excise tax was 10 € per kg. But this year there was a decrease in import. About 22.8 kg of cigarettes were imported since January 2005 (200 kg per month).

This decrease in import affected the customs revenues. About 28 million € was collected in 2005 – if there was no decrease of import, at least 50 million € would have been collected by now.

Meanwhile, UNMIK Customs say they do not know that the cigarette smuggling is increasing enormously. “We do not exclude the possibility of cigarette smuggling,” said Bashkim Arifi, spokesperson of Customs. “But if we knew there was smuggling, we would have prevented it.”

KFOR is also playing a considerable role in cigarette smuggling. Over the last six years, cigarettes, especially Marlboro cigarettes, are being taken from KFOR shops. These cigarettes can be bought in the market for 2 € and none of them has banderols.

Customs are aware of this, but they failed to ever undertake any measures in this regard. “We have information that the cigarettes without banderols in the market are initially destined for KFOR soldiers,” said Ekrem Hajdari, Law Enforcement Director at Customs in an interview with Express.

ECIKS / Express