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The Insight Crime Website Claims Belize is Gateway for Contraband Cigarettes into Mexico

The Insight Crime website has published an article indicating that cigarette smugglers and Mexico’s Customs officials have struck a deal at the border with Chetumal. The article claims that every Monday contraband cigarettes among other items are allowed to cross Belize’s border with Mexico as it is a day that the Customs officials are less strict with imports including contraband goods. According to the Insight information, the cigarette brands are from China, India, Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and the United States were all brought across. Further information suggests that a pack of cigarette that sells for 4-6 Mexican pesos in Belize’s free trade zone along the border increases <> in value to 15-20 Mexican pesos in Chetumal. Insight goes on to write, quote, “many of them don’t stay there. Most are then sent to Tepito, one of the largest neighborhoods in Mexico City and a well-known smuggler’s paradise. One criminal group in the capital, the Tobacco Cartel (Cártel del Tabaco), got its start by specializing in the theft, smuggling and sale of contraband cigarettes. Mexico has many ports of entry for illegal cigarettes. On the Atlantic side, the port of Veracruz has been inundated with illicit cigarettes. From January to October 2020, Mexican customs seized over 40 million cigarettes, with 31.1 million of them having arrived through Veracruz, according to customs statistics cited by the local press. The country’s biggest port, Manzanillo, on the Pacific coast is a common destination <> for Chinese contraband tobacco <>. Shipments to both Manzanillo and Veracruz often come from Panama, which has become a regional platform <> for the distribution of illegal tobacco.” It added that, “Belize’s importance has been steadily increasing. Back in 2013, InSight Crime reported <> on how the country’s free trade zone had become a hub for cigarettes coming from Paraguay and sold to Mexico and Guatemala. At the time, its lack of specific security measures to fight contraband was listed <> as a key reason for its role as a contraband hub. With smugglers having formalized deals with customs officials about when to bring over their merchandise safely, the situation is unlikely to improve. While the sale of cigarettes in Mexico plummeted by up to 45 percent during the pandemic, a new report suggested that the percentage of illegal cigarettes has climbed from 2 percent to 19 percent in the last decade.