A GIBRALTAR court has slapped a £118,000 fine on a man who had stored nearly 4,000 cartons of tobacco intended for smuggling.

Pedro Gomez Arroyo, 46, who worked in a tobacco shop himself, was arrested in November 2019 by Customs officers of the Flexible Anti-Smuggling Team.

The arrest came after Customs found 3729 cartons of cigarettes in an unlicensed store which were confiscated.

At the Magistrates Court, Gomez Arroyo admitted to full responsibility for the tobacco store which was not licensed under Gibraltar law.

He will now have to pay a £118,000 fine by October 2022 or face a six month prison sentence.

Any amount over 2,000 cigarettes is considered a ‘commercial quantity’ and cannot be bought on the Rock from one shop.

Many potential smugglers go from one shop to another amassing the amount of cigarettes to make a profit when they cross the land frontier in Spain.

Spanish business chiefs have defended the smuggling as it helps poor families bring food to the table in a Campo area blighted by 40% unemployment.

The amount of distress in La Linea especially has increased in the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic that forced many businesses to close fully or partially.

The Spanish government is trying to get Gibraltar to increase its cigarette prices so that smuggling will no longer be such a leak to its coffers.

An EU treaty to be possibly signed in June could include a clause forcing this tobacco price change to make smuggling a thing of the past.

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