June 1, 2023

Tobacco and counterfeits: record customs seizures in 2022

Customs is under the spotlight. While an ultra-sensitive reform of the right to visit customs officers is being examined in the Senate, Bercy is trying to send positive signals to his administration. This Wednesday, Gabriel Attal, Minister of Public Accounts, and Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy, thus welcomed the work carried out by the agents in 2022.

“We are proud to announce [des] remarkable results for which we warmly thank the 16,000 French customs officers for their commitment”, declared the two ministers while presenting the results of last year.

The 2022 financial year ended with a new record in the fight against tobacco smuggling: 649 tonnes of tobacco and cigarettes fell into the hands of customs, a jump of 61%. For the first time, five clandestine cigarette factories have been dismantled in France.

Decline in drug seizures

In the fight against counterfeits, seizures have doubled in two years: 11.5 million items were intercepted in 2022.

Drug seizures, meanwhile, remained at historic levels. “It’s an exceptional record. […] which shows that customs officers are becoming more efficient every year, ”trumpeted Gabriel Attal, even if, some within the profession, point above all to an increase in the volume of narcotics on the territory.

The Minister recalled that his priority was the fight against smuggled tobacco, against a backdrop of “increased trafficking with criminal, mafia networks, which were previously involved in drug trafficking and have turned to tobacco trafficking”. The bill on customs provides for this to increase the penalties against those involved in tobacco trafficking.

More than 1,000 weapons seized

The year 2022 was also marked by a further increase in seizures of criminal assets with 175.5 million euros intercepted or seized by judicial customs officers (+40%), while 1,135 weapons were seized ( +41%), mainly from collectors.

Another aspect of the activity last year, the sanctions taken against Russian personalities and companies, following the invasion of Ukraine: four freighters, seven yachts and sailing ships as well as seven helicopters were grounded. Four works of art were also apprehended by customs. Bercy did not mention the affair of the yacht of the oligarch Alexei Kouzmitchev, the freezing of which was canceled by the courts.

VAT Fraud

“We hope for a rapid adoption of the bill aimed at giving customs the means to deal with new threats”, insists Bercy. The rapporteur for the text in the Senate, Albéric de Montgolfier, stresses that it is “imperative to give customs the means to act and to strengthen its operational capacity to respond to criminal networks deploying throughout the territory”.

The senator intends to defend in session a device resulting from the information report of the Finance Committee on the fight against fraud and tax evasion aimed at improving the fight against VAT refund fraud. “With 25 billion euros missing per year, it is time for VAT fraud to be taken seriously by the government,” he said.

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