Dear Sir, a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was returning to the UK by air from Palma airport, he had been staying with me for a few days holiday. He is resident in the UK.

Having checked in his luggage he passed through to the departure lounge. During his wait to board his flight a Tannoy announcement asked him and two or three other passengers to report to the airline representative, which he did. He was then taken to the office of the Guardia Civil at the airport, where they had his checked in luggage. He was then asked to present his hand luggage. He was then accused of smuggling goods out of Spain. He offered to surrender the goods in question, he was more keen to catch his flight. However, he was not allowed to board the flight, but was told to present himself at the Customs Office in Palma the following day, which he did.

The Customs Official told him he could be subjected to a fine of 100'000 pesetas for the offence. His offence was that he was carrying eight cartons of cigarettes, purchased in ”Estancos” in Mallorca. In the end, thanks to the understanding of the Customs and that of the airline he was able to leave on the following day, taking four cartons and leaving four cartons with me.

Having spoken to many friends here and tour operators, they have been surprised to learn that a restriction is in force regarding transport of goods between EU countries, bearing in mind that all relevant taxes had been paid in Spain. Since then I have spoken to the British Consulate in Palma, who have confirmed that four cartons of cigarettes are accepted as for ”personal use” and any over are for commercial use.

This raises a few questions: Are tour operators informing passengers of this limit? What would happen in the height of the tourist season if many passengers were subjected to this control?

Does the country of origin, ie Spain, have the right to control this ”contraband traffic”? and if so what is going on in the north of France where large Hypermarkets have been established to cater for British visitors taking advantage of the differences in taxation? Are the French taking the same action as their Spanish colleagues?

Yours sincerely,
Costa D'en Blanes