Japan Tobacco Inc. said Thursday it had filed suit in Europe aiming to annul a European Union petition in the United States against the alleged smuggling practices of JT and two other tobacco giants.
The application filed Wednesday at the European Court of First Instance charges that the EU had no authority last month to launch legal action in New York over the loss of billions of dollars in tax revenues from smuggling.
"We have opposed any smuggling with determination, and understand that we have never engaged in any transaction relating to smuggling," JT said in a statement.
"Furthermore, the EU has no ability to collect customs duties and value-added taxes and therefore has no authority to bring a suit seeking damages," the company insisted.
Customs and VAT are the preserve of national European governments, JT argued.
"We will take any necessary, appropriate measures against the EU lawsuit including this application," the statement said.
No further action has been decided upon yet as JT waits to hear from the court in Luxembourg over the validity of its counter-claim, JT spokesman Roy Tsuji said.
The company had not considered acting in concert with the other two tobacco firms named in the EU suit, US giants R.J. Reynolds and Phillip Morris, he added.
"This is a totally individual action on our part," Tsuji said.
The suit filed at the New York District Court on November 3 charges Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and Japan Tobacco with smuggling cigarettes into the European Union.
The suit was entered under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970, which was passed to fight the US Mafia and other organized crime groups.
It names the Japanese former state monopoly as the owner of Geneva-based Japan Tobacco International SA, the former RJR International which JT bought from RJR Nabisco in May 1999.
"Beginning in the late 1970s and continuing through the present day, the defendant corporations ... have launched and conducted a consistent and concerted campaign to increase their respective market shares in the countries in which their products are sold," the EU suit says.
"To accomplish this end, (they) have actively engaged in smuggling activities and concealed such conduct through illegal acts, including money laundering, wire fraud, mail fraud and other violations of US law."
The damages sought are not specified in the suit, which demands a jury trial to put three of the world's biggest tobacco companies in the dock -- TOKYO (AFP)
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