WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following hearing:
A HAZY CRISIS: ILLICIT CIGARETTE SMUGGLING IN THE OSCE REGION
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Dirksen Senate Office Building
The global illicit tobacco trade costs governments around the globe approximately $40 billion to $50 billion annually. The U.S. Department of State classifies illicit cigarette smuggling as low-risk, high-reward behavior for traffickers; they are regularly able to avoid detection and punishment while bringing in millions of dollars. This money is frequently used to fund other criminal activities such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, and terrorism.
One of the most problematic regions for cigarette smuggling globally is the OSCE region. For example, studies estimate that €10.2 billion ($11.64 billion) is lost every year to this criminal activity in the European Union alone, where counterfeit cigarettes are particularly prevalent and account for 30 percent of articles detained by EU customs.
Hubs of illicit activity exist in regions such as Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, where large quantities of cigarettes are produced and then illicitly trafficked through transit countries. Western Europe’s high cigarette taxes create demand for illicit alternatives, and transnational organized criminal networks and terrorist groups have seized upon this opportunity.
The hearing will examine the issue of illicit cigarette smuggling in the OSCE region with the goal of understanding the threats it poses and how best to respond.
The following witnesses are scheduled to testify:
- Louise Shelley, Director, Terrorism, Transnational Crime, and Corruption Center, George Mason University
- David Sweanor, Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Ottawa
- Marc Firestone, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Phillip Morris International