HomeNewsBriefCoronavirus Yet to Halt Peru’s Contraband Cigarette Trade
BRIEF

Coronavirus Yet to Halt Peru’s Contraband Cigarette Trade

CONTRABAND / 9 OCT 2020 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

Police in Peru have recently seized large quantities of contraband cigarettes in one of the capital’s most populous districts, in the latest reflection of the regional boom in demand for black market tobacco amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On October 6, Customs police seized more than 1.5 million illicit cigarettes during two simultaneous operations in the La Victoria district of the capital, Lima. Peruvian customs agents (Superintendencia Nacional de Aduanas y de Administración Tributaria -- SUNAT) valued the merchandise at 1.8 million soles (around $500,000), Perú 21 reported.

The seizure comes amid a string of operations targeting the South American nation’s bustling contraband cigarette trade.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profile

A week earlier, the criminal investigation unit of the national police seized more than 70,000 illicit cigarettes from a local shop in northwest Sullana province. The cigarettes did not have documentation proving its origins, but authorities believe they arrived from Colombia or Paraguay, according to local media reports.

Prior to that bust, in early September, police confiscated around 36,000 cigarettes from five individuals traveling on an interprovincial bus between Piura and Talara in the north of the country. Officials told local media they suspected the cigarettes entered Peru from Bolivia and transited through the city of Puno en route to Piura.

InSight Crime Analysis

The seemingly steady flow of contraband cigarettes into Peru and the continued efforts of law enforcement to intercept them suggests that the coronavirus has done little to slow this thriving illicit market.

Indeed, over the last eight years, the national government has lost some $5 billion in revenue to the country’s contraband trade -- primarily cigarettes, according to a report last year from the anti-contraband committee of Peru’s National Society of Industries (Sociedad Nacional de Industrias -- SNI).

In 2018, the SNI found that 43 percent of Peru’s contraband cigarettes came from Paraguay, which has long been a key supplier of such products aided in part by official corruption. The black market products often enter through the country’s main seaport of Callao along the Pacific coast, but are also smuggled through the border regions with Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia, according to the SNI.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Contraband

In recent years, the Peruvian government has hiked taxes on products like cigarettes and motor vehicles that officials argue have the most adverse health and environmental effects.

At the time of the increase in 2018, the SNI warned it could lead to an uptick in contraband smuggling. In neighboring Bolivia, for example, the consumption tax applied to cigarettes is 75 percent lower than in Peru, which gives smugglers a key incentive to facilitate the illicit trade, according to data from Euromonitor cited by the SNI.

And Peru is far from the only country in Latin America struggling to curtail this booming illicit trade, made all the more attractive by relatively low risks and high returns.

Smugglers in Argentina have turned to black market cigarettes amid a shortage of cigarettes and job losses brought on by the pandemic. To the north, in Ecuador, authorities are seeing a surge in contraband smuggling due to the coronavirus. Between January and August of this year, customs officials seized four times the amount of contraband products confiscated during the same period of 2019, according to El Comercio.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EXTORTION / 31 OCT 2013

A top police official has highlighted the growing problem of extortion in Peru, amid reports that $10 billion is laundered…

BRAZIL / 31 AUG 2012

Brazilian police, working with their Peruvian counterparts, have conducted coca eradication operations in Peru as the Latin American superpower steps…

BRAZIL / 14 SEP 2011

Brazilian and Paraguayan forces allegedly exchanged fire last week in the crime-ridden border region, highlighting possible tensions between the security…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…