THE Gibraltar Government has hit back at a Spanish police chief who claimed it is not doing enough to fight tobacco smuggling.
The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo went as far as saying that ‘Spanish penalties and rules have, unhelpfully, been relaxed’.
It followed an interview of a former head of the Guardia Civil, Jesus Nunez, by the Algeciras-based Europa Sur on January 12.
In it, Nunez claimed that Gibraltar was ‘not cooperating’ on tobacco smuggling.
He even went as far as saying that he had seen ‘not one news report in the Gibraltarian press about someone being arrested when loading tobacco onto boats’.
“I am very disappointed that Mr Nuñez has failed to understand the reality of the work being done in Gibraltar to stop Spanish tobacco smugglers,” said Picardo.
“He has failed to appreciate the excellent work done by our Customs officers and the magnificent tools we have put at their disposal to combat Spanish tobacco smugglers.
“Neither he nor his Europa Sur interviewer appear to be aware of basic facts such as the application already – voluntarily – by Gibraltar of the MoU on tobacco in order to curb Spanish tobacco smugglers.”
The news that Gibraltar had already increased tobacco prices to help combat the tobacco problem will be going a long way to lower illegal profits.
But the Chief Minister went even further, suggesting that the Spanish government was not helping to eradicate the problem in its own backyard.
“Mr Nuñez seems to fail to appreciate that, as Gibraltar’s laws have been made tougher in the control of the illicit tobacco market, Spanish penalties and rules have, unhelpfully, been relaxed.
“Gibraltar would like to see Spain make its anti-smuggling penalties and rules tougher in order to assist Gibraltar in curbing Spanish national attempts to smuggle tobacco.”
To directly rebuff the claims Gibraltar was not taking forceful action to stop tobacco smuggling he pointed to how a Customs Officer was hurt recently in this crime-fighting efforts.
“Only last week an anti-tobacco operation being carried out by Customs officers in Gibraltar led to an officer being injured in the discharge of his duties.
“This is of great concern to the Government and why we will continue to invest in the equipment put at the disposal of Customs officers to help them carry out their excellent work as safely as possible.”
Nunez believes The Memorandum on Tobacco to be signed soon by the Gibraltar Government as part of the EU withdrawal agreement will be useful as it fixes the price of tobacco to only 32% less than Spain.
In the interview Nunez also claimed that Gibraltarians should pay their taxes if resident in Spain, a situation which could be remedied by Picardo’s tax treaty.