The National Treasury Administration, Ministry of Finance (NTA) is actively cracking down on illegal activities involving emerging underground tobacco factories to safeguard the health of our citizens. In collaboration with central and local enforcement agencies, as of August in the year 2023, a total of 17 illegal underground tobacco factories have been uncovered. Approximately 5.33 million packs of illegal tobacco with an estimated market value of about NT$168 million were seized, representing a significant increase of approximately 2.18 million packs, or a growth of 69.12%, compared to the entire year of 2022. This achievement is notable.
The NTA emphasizes that underground tobacco factories differ from traditional tobacco smuggling cases in their illegal modus operandi. Unlawful operators often use deceptive methods by falsely declaring shipments as items like scrap metal or fertilizers, while actually importing tobacco production equipment and materials for domestic production of illegal tobacco. Due to their poor quality, these illegal tobacco, if introduced into the market for public consumption, will cause a serious threat to the health of our citizens. In August of this year, two underground tobacco factory cases were successively dismantled in Yunlin County and Taichung City, resulting in the seizure of approximately 10,500 kilograms of tobacco, equivalent to over 750,000 packs of illegal tobacco.
The NTA reiterates that engaging in the manufacturing, importing, transporting, or selling of illegal tobacco will result in penalties and confiscation of illegal tobacco products in accordance with The Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act. Those involved in manufacturing illegal tobacco may face fines of up to NT$10 million, while individuals involved in transportation or sales could be fined up to NT＄6 million. Importers of illegal tobacco may be subject to imprisonment for up to 3 years and fines ranging from NT$200,000 to NT$10 million. NTA warns unlawful operators not to underestimate the determination of public authorities and the government to enforce strict laws and regulations. It also urges citizens not to purchase tobacco of unknown origin or those with unreasonably low prices to protect their health. Furthermore, citizens are encouraged to report any suspicious activities through the toll-free hotline 0800-867890. Whistleblowers may receive rewards of up to NT$ 6 million per case. Through collective efforts, we can combat illegal activities and uphold the interests of the general public.