On August 23, the Government of Ukraine approved the Strategy for Preventing Illicit Tobacco Goods Production and Turnover. EUBAM welcomes this important development. The Strategy sets out measures to enhance Ukraine’s legislation, operational capacity and infrastructure for law enforcement agencies to effectively detect, investigate, seize and prosecute large-scale tobacco smuggling. The Mission also welcomes the emphasis the Strategy places on the importance of interagency cooperation, and believes this will serve as an effective basis for deeper partnerships with relevant EU and international agencies.
The Strategy was developed by Ukraine’s border, customs and law enforcement agencies in close cooperation with the tobacco industry. EUBAM supported the Ukrainian authorities in drafting the Strategy, using the EU’s Strategy on Illicit Tobacco and those of individual EU Member States, as models. It will run until 2021.
The Strategy proposes the introduction of a system for monitoring and registering statistical data concerning confiscated cigarettes, as well as a transparent procedure for their destruction. Oleg Strekal, Corporate and Legal Affairs Director of Imperial Tobacco (Ukraine, Moldova and the Caucasus) commented, “In 2017 the level of illicit cigarette trade in Ukraine doubled in comparison to 2015-2016, and according to recent research reached 2.6%. It means that this year the State budget might lose around UAH 1 billion in revenue from the tobacco industry, as the price of one cigarette contains 60-80% of taxes and smugglers, illegal producers and distributors do not pay taxes. Therefore, the Strategy is so significant at the present time. Its implementation will increase the efforts of law-enforcement in cooperation with international organisations and legal producers, as well as decrease the level of illicit production and distribution of tobacco products, thus improving the economic progress of the country”.
EUBAM’s Head of Mission, Ambassador Andrew Tesoriere, emphasized that “The adoption of this Strategy matters both to the Ukraine and the EU. It promises to significantly increase tax revenues for Ukraine and EU Member States, money which previously profited smugglers and organized crime groups. This increased state revenue can now be better used by the national budget for other urgent needs such as public health, transport or education. The Strategy also forms a firm and coordinated basis for future operational cooperation between Ukraine and the EU to curb illicit tobacco smuggling both inside Ukraine and into the EU.”
The need for a Strategy was identified by the EUBAM-led Task Force Tobacco, which unites Moldovan and Ukrainian border and customs agencies, as well as wider stakeholders, on issues related to the illicit trade in cigarettes. EUBAM looks forward to providing support to Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service and State Fiscal Service on the implementation of the Strategy on the Moldova-Ukraine border.