- March 5 - A yearlong investigation
by the Center for Public Integrity shows that British American
Tobacco, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have worked closely with
companies and individuals directly connected to organized crime in
the global smuggling of cigarettes.
The investigation by the Center's International Consortium of
Investigative Journalists is based on a review of thousands of
pages of corporate and government documents and dozens of
interviews with law enforcement officials, smugglers and other
sources worldwide. It indicates that tobacco smuggling is
increasingly dominated by a handful of criminal organizations that
in some cases have links to organized crime.
Corporate documents, court records and internal government
reports -- some dating to the 1970s -- also show that BAT, Philip
Morris and RJR have orchestrated smuggling networks variously in
Canada, Colombia, China, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East,
Africa and the United States as a major part of their marketing
strategy to increase profits.
It's estimated that about one in every three cigarettes exported
worldwide is sold on the black market.
The companies have sought to undercut rising government taxes,
which studies show are the main reason most smokers quit, as well
as to gain market share by offering competitively priced popular
international brands on the black market.
The result has been tax evasion on a global scale that has
greatly depleted government treasuries, especially in Third World
countries. Cigarette smuggling has also fostered international
crime and money laundering and alarmed growing numbers of law
enforcement officials worldwide.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists first
revealed the link between tobacco companies and cigarette smuggling
in a January 2000 report based on 11,000 pages of corporate
documents, dealing mostly with Latin America and Asia.
Those findings were published in over 40 media outlets in 10
countries and helped prompt a parliamentary hearing in Britain, as
well as a formal government investigation. Since then, three civil
lawsuits have been filed in the United States against the tobacco
companies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
(RICO) act -- the latest by the European Union and several of its
This new eight-part Center report can be read in its entirety in
'The Public i' at http://www.publici.org/story_01_030301.htm
be made available for republication by contacting Center sales
manager Andy Atwater at firstname.lastname@example.org.