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Smuggling costs shops thousands in lost trade.

Alcohol and tobacco smuggling is costing Midland retailers an average pounds 34,000 each in lost sales, a new survey has revealed.

Legitimate traders lost 13.8 per cent on tobacco sales because of bootlegging, on beers 9.7 per cent and on wines and spirits 9.7 per cent over the last year.

The average independent retailer in Britain has now lost pounds 200,000 per store and the independent retail sector pounds 9 billion over the last four years as a result of the black market activity.

Customs Minister Paul Boateng said: 'We are constantly looking to improve what we do and I have asked Customs to look carefully at the report's findings about taking action to see what we can do.

'This Government is deeply concerned by tobacco and alcohol smuggling.

'This criminal activity undermines the Government's important health objectives and robs the UK of over pounds 3 billion in extra revenue - money that could be spent on schools and hospitals.

'This survey highlights that smuggling continues to be a real threat to the legitimate trade.'

The independent retail sector is calling for further steps in next month's Budget to help Customs fight the bootlegging problem and for the Government to consider cutting duty levels on alcohol and tobacco, which remain the largest in Europe.

In 1998/99 the Government raised pounds 8.4 billion through tobacco duty and lost pounds 1.7 billion in duty evasion.

In 2000/1 it raised pounds 7.6 billion through tobacco duty but lost pounds 3.5 billion due to increased bootlegging activity.

Richard Siddle, editor of the retail magazine Independent Retail News, which compiled the latest figures, said: 'Independent retailers continue to be hammered in the pocket by bootleggers.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 23, 2002
Words:290
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