THE number of offenders caught smuggling tobacco into Spain from Gibraltar has more than tripled in just three years, the Olive Press can reveal.
Spanish customs officials stopped a staggering 2,899 people carrying illegal numbers of cigarettes in the first nine months of last year.
This compares to just 985 people stopped on the frontier in the whole of 2008.
The Spanish National Tax Agency (AEAT) statistics show an alarming year-on-year rise, with 1,226 people stopped in 2009 (192,560 packets) and 2,112 people (283,203 packets) in 2010.
By the end of September last year 409,095 packets had been seized.
Many of these are being distributed by gangs around Spain, although a ‘substantial number’ are being sent abroad ‘where profits are higher’, a Spanish police source told the Olive Press.
This week, a 62-year-old man was arrested in Sevilla with 40,000 packets of illegal cigarettes, totalling a value of over 100,000 euros.
In another incident, last week, a car was stopped in Villamartin with 1750 packets, worth 6000 euros.
The trend is widely seen as a consequence of Spain’s chronic unemployment figures.
“This is really not the problem on our side,” a Gibraltar government source told the Olive Press.