Mr Death awaits the burial of the tax laws
A European Court ruling on re-selling cigarettes could have major implications, says Meg Carter
Enlightened Tobacco Company owns Death Cigarettes, a brand launched in 1991 by the entrepreneur BJ Cunningham. It marketed itself on the health risks, being sold in a black carton sporting a white skull and cross bones.
In 1994, ETC launched Tobacco Direct, which imported and sold cigarettes direct to customers in the UK. Taking advantage of the EU single market which allows the import of unlimited amounts of cigarettes for personal use, Tobacco Direct was able to offer savings of up to pounds 1 per pack by buying leading brands on the continent where tobacco duty is lower than in the UK.
Customs & Excise said the practice was illegal. ETC won an injunction enabling it to continue supplying its 60,000 customers until the outcome, in May 1995, of a judicial review.
Although Mr Justice Popplewell ruled against the company, he advised ETC to appeal. The case was referred to the Court of Appeal which referred it to the European Court of Justice.
A ruling is expected in April. "Although everyone says we are wrong, the good news is that everyone says we are wrong for different reasons," BJ Cunningham says.
The case hangs on a European Council directive concerning the way in which exciseable products should be treated within Europe. Article 8 of the directive 92/12/EEC states: "As regards products acquired by private individuals for their own use and transported by them the principle governing the internal market lays down that excise duty shall be charged in the member state in which they are acquired."
At issue is whether the phrase "by private individuals and transported by them" sanctions an agent acting on their behalf. Greece's position is that the phrasing does not allow agents; France says it does. "It's really nothing to do with tobacco," Cunningham explains. "At stake is the first principal of European Union - the freedom of movement of goods and people." Tobacco Direct was nothing more than a simple extension of a beer or wine shopping trip to Calais, he claims. The real issue is tax differentials between EU member states. "Our case offers a genuine opportunity to bypass political ennui and effectively harmonise taxes, by allowing all consumers the opportunity of attractive European prices on their cigarettes (or alcohol); not merely those rich enough, healthy enough of well geographically placed enough to travel."
The court's advocate general is expected to make a response by the end of the month; the court will then give its judgment, which will be passed to the Court of Appeal in the UK.
Cunningham concedes the odds appear to be against him. "However, we have right on our side." Should he win, Tobacco Direct plans to sue the UK government for loss of traden
- 1 Serena Williams apologises after comment that rape victim 'shouldn't have put herself in that position'
- 2 Disability campaigners celebrate 'victory' after government rethink over plans to make it more difficult to claim disability benefits
- 3 Bankers could face jail after report urges the Government to introduce new criminal offence for reckless management
- 4 Breaking the Silence: In the reality of occupation, there are no Palestinian civilians – only potential terrorists
- 5 We never knew Nigella Lawson - and we still don’t
iJobs Money & Business
£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: FX Options Front Office Java / C# Developer - Ba...
£600 - £700 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager - Front Office - Regulatory IT C...
£600 - £750 per day: Orgtel: FATCA Project Manager - Banking - London - £600-...
£550 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Fidessa Analyst / PM - Banking - London - Up to £...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom semi-detached house in Lower Slaughter constructed out of natural stone in keeping with the Cotswolds, £650,000
A smartly presented two-bedroom cottage, extensively refurbished with sun-filled garden and terrace, £350,000
A Victorian barn conversion at Heath End Farm with four bedrooms. £1.25 million.
A spacious two-bedroom flat within an impressive Victorian terrace building, close to Fulham Road and New Kings Road, £375,000.
A two-bedroom flat at Grafton Court, a former manor house in the village of Temple Grafton, with private terrace, £450,000
A four-bedroom listed mews in Apley Castle with impressive drawing room, £425,000
A two-bedroom flat close to the Regent's Canal with a private patio and a concierge service. £500,000
A two-bedroom flat at the Candlemakers Apartments set over two floors with a balcony. £625,000.
This three-bedroom Grade II-listed thatch in the pretty village of Wigginton. £450,000.
A new two-bedroom flat with a bright open-plan reception and skyline views. £450,000.
A modern home of almost 1,000sq ft is close to Stoke Newington's high street. £499,950
A five-bedroom bungalow in Hoveton with riverside garden and mooring dock, £550,000
A refurbished one-bedroom flat with south-facing reception and high ceilings. £579,950
A four-bedroom Grade II-listed house in Nazeing with large gardens. £550,000
A modern four-bedroom house in a converted stable within walking distance to Peckham Rye. £695,000
Three-bedroom house in a quiet residential area within close distance to Battersea Park. £450,000
A three-bedroom cottage within commuting distance of London, Norwich and Cambridge. £250,000
A two-bedroom cottage with a sun room and gardens in South Chard. £350,000.
A three-bedroom semi-detached house with original features including fireplaces and wooden flooring. £399,950