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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms Explosives’ Efforts to Prevent the Diversion of Tobacco
Glenn A. Fine (ed)
The Dept. of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is charged with investigating the diversion of alcohol and tobacco products from the legal distribution system to evade payment of federal and state excise taxes. This can include criminal behavior such as smuggling alcohol and tobacco products from a low tax state to sell in a high tax state, smuggling across international borders, avoiding taxes by pretending to export products but illegally selling them in the U.S., producing counterfeit products, selling products without tax stamps or with counterfeit stamps, and selling products illegally over the Internet. In the U.S., federal and state governments estimate that tobacco diversion costs over $5 billion in revenue from unpaid excise taxes annually. The primary reason that tobacco diversion is profitable in the U.S. is the disparity among the states’ excise taxes. ATF’s alcohol and tobacco diversion mission is to investigate and arrest offenders who traffic in contraband cigarettes and illegal liquor; seize and deny criminals further access to assets and funds; prevent criminal encroachment into the legitimate alcohol and tobacco industries; and assist local, state, and other federal law enforcement and tax agencies in investigating interstate trafficking of contraband cigarettes and liquor. This report maintains that ATF can take steps to strengthen its diversion enforcement, even with existing resources. It found that ATF’s diversion efforts are ad hoc, that ATF personnel lacked a clear understanding of the scope of diversion activity across field divisions, and that ATF HQ does not adequately support the field divisions’ diversion investigations. In addition, the report found that no systematic method exists to share intelligence or information specifically about diversion between the field and headquarters, which adds to ATF’s lack of knowledge of the overall level of diversion activity in the nation. Figures.
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