Blame The Distributor - How Gallaher Stayed in the Smuggling Game
In 2004, Cyprus-based tobacco distributor Tlais Enterprises Limited (TEL) was told it had received a “red card” from British customs, a warning that the company was suspected of cigarette smuggling. TEL’s owner, Ptolomeos Tlais, was surprised. Born in Lebanon to a wealthy trading family, Tlais was doing, he said, exactly what his supplier, Gallaher Tobacco, had told him to do: quickly dumping large amounts of cigarettes onto developing countries. Everyone involved, he insists, knew that some of these smokes — especially their low-end Sovereign brand — would find their way back to the U.K., where avoidance of high tobacco taxes guaranteed smugglers a windfall.
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