Cigarette Trafficking: The New Cash Cow for Al Qaeda

Martin J. Golden

October 10, 2007

New York tax law requires a sales and excise tax to be imposed on each pack of cigarettes sold by a licensed retailer. Native American reservations throughout the State of New York have argued their sovereignty gives them the authorization to sell tax-free cigarettes to both tribal and non-tribal members.

However, in 1994 the United States Supreme Court ruled (Attea v. New York State) that New York was within its constitutional right to tax all cigarette sales to non tribal members.
Seems like common sense, right?

Incredibly, during these past 12 years not a single dime has been collected. These untaxed sales total a revenue loss of $20 million per week and upwards of $1 billion per year, strongly affecting the bottom line of New York’s annual budget.

As a result of the loss of revenue, it is the New York taxpayers that are forced to foot the bill. The more troubling discovery is that these revenues are the source of a much more serious problem. Recent reports have indicated that these major illegal profits are funding terrorism from within our borders.

In an unregulated system, terrorists have the ability to purchase large quantities of untaxed product and redistribute it where the excise and sales tax are the greatest, making New York City a prime black market.

Federal officials are acutely aware of this scheme. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) have opened hundreds of illicit cigarette-trafficking cases with links to extremist groups such as al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. A senior intelligence analyst with ATF stated that "Because of the immense profit in the illicit cigarette trade, illicit cigarette trafficking now rivals drug trafficking as the method of choice to fill the bank accounts of terrorists and terrorist groups."

The New York State Tax Agents have joined with the State Tax Department to establish the "First Alert Program," which has produced many of the leads resulting in arrests, including a husband and wife in Brooklyn as part of a group of 200 terrorists smuggling cigarettes to fund their anti-American activities.

The Council on Foreign Relations even discovered Hezbollah was selling tax free cigarettes in a Seneca Indian retail store located in upstate New York.

This should undoubtedly be a grave concern to New Yorkers, but where is Governor Spitzer on this issue? In January, then newly elected, Spitzer expressed support in moving forward with collections, yet nothing has been done. Spitzer’s failure to address this issue is perpetuating terrorist’s ability to blatantly exploit the illogical current policy of this State.

It’s high time we take a serious approach toward ending this extremely lucrative revenue stream that aids terrorists in funding attacks on us.

The solution is a simple one.

Both federal and state laws are already in place and the courts have reaffirmed their constitutionality. What we need now is a governor with the guts to enforce them. The result of not enforcing the law has transcended the issue of Native American sovereignty into an issue of national security.