25th Oct 2016

EU demands crackdown on Gibraltar tobacco smuggling

  • EU watchdog OLAF stated its concerns about tobacco smuggling from Gibraltar. (Photo: Scott Wylie)

Spain and British-run Gibraltar have been told to crack down on cross-border tobacco smuggling by the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog.

The recommendation by the European Union anti-fraud office (Olaf) follows a year-long investigation conducted after a request from Spain.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In its report, which will not be made public, Olaf said that there had been "a significant increase in the size of the Gibraltar market for cigarettes over the past four years" and that there were “indications of the involvement of organised crime".

Olaf called on Spain and Gibraltar, which is classified as a British overseas territory, to "initiate judicial proceedings".

“As Olaf can carry out only administrative investigations, it is for those authorities to decide what further actions may be necessary," it said in a statement on Monday (11 August).

The investigation was requested by Madrid following a long-running dispute with Britain about border controls in Gibraltar.

The Spanish government stepped up its border operations last year, introducing random spot-checks, claiming that the extra surveillance was needed to combat rising levels of tobacco smuggling.

Cigarettes are around 40 percent cheaper on the British "Rock" than in Spain.

More than 139 million smuggled cigarettes from Gibraltar were seized by Spanish authorities in 2012.

But the UK government argued that the extra checks, at a border which sees 10,000 cars cross per day, were a politically motivated attempt to disrupt normal life.

For its part, the European Commission waded into the row last autumn, calling on Spain to reduce random border checks and to "develop the exchange of information with the United Kingdom on tobacco smuggling."

Meanwhile, London was told to increase "non systematic and risk-analysis based checks on travellers and their belongings" in a bid to crack down on smuggling.

The two countries have, for centuries, disputed the sovereignty of the territory on Spain's southern coast.

Spain's Socialists ease Rajoy's path to power

The Socialists agree to abstain in a confidence vote later this week, meaning conservative leader Mariano Rajoy should be able to form a minority government after 10 months of deadlock.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  7. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  8. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  9. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  10. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  11. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersFish Skin on Bare Skin: Turning Fish Waste into Sustainable Fashion