Thank you for your recent email address to Pierre de Labouchere and Yasushi Shingai, which has been forwarded on to me for response.I can confirm that JTI has been in discussions with HMRC regarding the supply of Amber Leaf into the Belgium market. These discussions follow large seizures of product by HMRC in the UK . Pending the outcomes of these discussions with HMRC, JTI decided to take the precautionary step of stopping the supply of Amber Leaf into this market.This is done regularly by JTI in order to help the authorities dealing with illicit trade. We know that it can inconvenience loyal customers such as yourself but it is also the only way to ensure that, over time, the product you get is really the product you want to buy.
We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused you, but please be advised that JTI is in the process of recommencing the supply of Amber Leaf into the Belgium marketplace, so the product should once again be available for purchase in Belgium.
Vice President Corporate Affairs
Gallaher Ltd ... a member of JTI Companies
Dear Ms McKeown,
thank you for your reply. However, l must take issue with the content. You say that you are in discussion with HMRC. Are you referring to the threats of HMRC? Namely their documented threat of imposing "fine of up to £5million can be imposed on manufacturers if their products are seized by HMRC as a result of over-supplying the legitimate trade" ?
l and other shoppers recognise the ambiguity of this threat. We are regularly threatened in the same manner when confronted by HMRC .... fines, prison, upto, could, may , if, .... and so on. We take no notice of this threatening intimidation.Unfortunately, many do take notice and let HMRC unjustly take their legitimately bought goods.
l also note that you refer to recent large seizures of 'product' by HMRC in the UK. Specifically, what does 'product' refer to? ... tobacco? cigarettes? liquor? ... or are you/HMRC saying Amber Leaf?
I am not being pedantic here, it's extremely important considering the conduct of HMRC when they confront us legitimate shoppers (which you never commented on, by the way). Apart from harassment and intimidation we recieve, HMRC are not renown for exactly being honest as documented cases have shown.What seems to bear this out is that the UKBA/HMRC have no publicised records of large shipments of Amber Leaf, or indeed tobacco, seized this year. As HMRC immediately publish any such seizures (even small seizures) to the press, l find it somewhat strange that there are none .Especially so, as you seem to have withdrawn Amber Leaf from the Belgium market merely on the face of these undocumented 'large seizures'.
ln your next paragraph you state "the product you get is really the one you want to buy'. This infers that when you say 'illicit goods' you are referring to counterfeit goods? I fail to see how restricting your product Amber Leaf has any impact whatsover on counterfeit goods other than increasing the conterfeit trade to fill the demand you've created.
Given that you state that you constantly monitor your outlets in Belgium.yet you still restrict the product? l can only conclude that you are complying to whatever HMRC tells you, factual or not. You seem to trust the HMRC. I can tell and show you emphatically that this trust is totally unwarranted.
We, your customers, rely on a constant supply of our preferred brand. lf that supply is switched on and off we will find another brand we like that we can depend on to give a constant supply. We smokers don't like changing brands and stick with that brand ... unless we cannot no longer get a supply. If not, we change to another brand that will maintain supply. lt matters not if your brand comes back on the market as our loyalties are now with some other company ... which will probably be one of your EU competitors. What none of us will certainly do is buy any of our tobacco in the UK .... period.
I hope you can clarify these matters.