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Cigarette smuggling – a burning issue on the sea area of Quang Ninh province

14:53 | 07/06/2016

VCN- The Quang Ninh coast has been buzzing with cigarette smuggler’s activities after a recent crackdown on cigarette smuggling along the road border by authorized forces. 

cigarette smuggling a burning issue on the sea area of quang ninh province
Evidence of 138 illegally–imported tobacco barrels being seized by functional forces of Quang Ninh province in the beginning of April, 2016 (photo provided by the authority)

According to the National Steering Committee 389, tobacco smuggling activities have been conducted secretly in a smuggling ring formed by a chain of domestic and international smugglers (mostly from China and Cambodia) through the border area in Quang Ninh province. The head of this chain collects large quantities of contraband cigarettes on the other side of the border, frequently at night, and will transport across the border on fast speedboats to specific points. In order to transport the smuggled goods successfully, smugglers equip themselves with modern means of communication, and when detected, they are willing to fight back, even involving head-on collisions with vehicles of authorized forces, endangering the lives of officers and soldiers.

Previously, along the boder of Quang Ninh province, thanks to enhanced inspection and control by Vietnamese and Chinese authorities, smuggling and illegal cargo transport across the border has taken place sporadiccally. However, since smuggling over the road border has been tackled harshly, it has been redirected by sea. In addition to smuggled firecrackers, mini fire extinguishers, seafoods etc, tobacco has been illegally organised and transported on a large scale.

In the beginning of April, 2016, using intelligence from locals about a suspected group transporting forbidden goods (which could be cigarettes) on a non-registered vessel about to load their goods at Ca habour, village 1, Quang Nghia Commune, Mong Cai City, Quang Ninh province, the anti-smuggling inspection team under the control of km15- Dan Tien harbour inter-agency inspection station planned to put them under arrest. After verifying reported news, the authorized forces quickly arrived at the habour. Upon arrival, the suspects immediately drove away, headed to Hai Ha commune, Quang Ninh city. After following for hours, the anti-smuggling inspection team drove a boat to village 3, Quang Thang Commune, Hai Ha district, and found the perpetrators loading goods at the pier. Being aware of the functional forces, they run away and left behind 138 cartons of cigarette, including 48 cartons of ESE SPECIAL GOLD cigarettes (equivalent to 24.000 packets) and 90 cartons of ESSE LIGHTS (equivalent to 45.000 packets) which were then confiscated by functional forces in front of local witnesses. The police of Mong Cai city, Quang Ninh province had been initiating prosecution and continuing their investigation.

On the sea border between Quang Ninh and Hai Phong, Commander of Vietnam Coast Guard Region 1, while patrolling and guarding found a highspeed canoe coming in the Gulf of Tonkin. During the ensuing chase, many bags were thrown into the water and the canoe then escaped out of the Gulf. The Coast Guard team then retrieved all bags from the water and seized 6.000 packets of 555 branded cigarettes.

Recently, in the summary conference about Regulation on responsibilities and coordinating relations among different forces, the Quang Ninh Provincial steering committee has acknowledged that the coordination and information exchange among forces stilll remains deficient and only arises upon request, and that cooperation among central and local functional forces is not frequent enough to make it easy to collect evidence for criminal penalties. Therefore in the upcoming time, Quang Ninh requires to boost cooperation among functional forces and sectors, together with local authorities for better managing the region, eliminating smuggling rings,  explore the role of locals, at the same time introduce to officers, Party members and local people about the guidelines and policies of the Central Party and the Nation fighting against smugglling and commercial fraud. Rccommending timely coordination among the Central authorised sectors and Quang Ninh provincial bodies to avoid difficulties in gathering evidence or failing to levy administrative penalties. Moreover, pushing the Government to issue a revision for the Prime Minister’s decision No. 65/2010 /QD – TTg dated October 25th,2010 promulgating the Regulation on activity-coordination responsibilities and relations among state management agencies in the struggle against smuggling, fake goods and trade fraud to ensure the consistenc in practical application.

Taking effect from January 5, 2016, Decree No. 124/2015/ND-CP revises and supplements a number of articles in Decree No. 185/2013/ND-CP on administrative fines for trading and production of counterfeit and banned goods and protection of consumer rights. The Decree No. 124 strengthens the sanctions imposed for tobacco smuggling. Article 25: Imposing a fine of VND 20.000.000 to 30.000.000 where prohibited goods are smuggled cigarettes with the quantity of 200 to 300 packets. If the quantity exceeds 500 packets, the official who in charge is responsible to forward all the related documents to the functional agency for criminal prosecution under Article 62 – Law on handling administrative violations (formerly, Decree No. 185 stipulated fines to the trading of more than 1500 packets of smuggled cigarette). In case of trading more than 500 packets but no criminal prosecution being initiated, a fine of VND 70 – 100 million will be applied instead.