If you can’t beat em, tax em. That’s the enlightened approach taken by the US state of Tennessee, which has raised almost US$2 ($2.7) million from its so called ‘crack tax’.
Otherwise known as the unauthorised substances tax, the state has received US$1,714,565 ($2,280,514) since it came into effect on 1 January last year.
Under the scheme the state expects drug dealers to pay tax on illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as illicit alcohol such as ‘moonshine’. The amount of money taxed varies based on the type and amount of the drug.
The dealers must pay the tax to the Department of Revenue within 48 hours of acquiring an unauthorised substance and obtain a state tax stamp. If this requirement is adhered to, the department will not tell the police.
If they are caught dealing and they don’t have a stamp, however, they will be prosecuted for tax evasion as well as drug dealing.
The Tennessean reports the money collected has already covered the one-time startup cost of the program, US$376,400, and the first year of recurring cost, US$802,568.
But the paper reports that not everyone is happy about the tax.
Nashville defence lawyer Glenn Funk said the tax is unfair because the taxes are often assessed before the suspect is convicted of a crime.
“It is a ridiculous law,” Funk said. “The law on the books now is allowing revenue agents to seize personal property of citizens based solely on an accusation by a police officer.”
The money collected from dealers goes towards fighting the war on drugs.
Reptile smuggler snared
Usually it’s people trying to smuggle exotic species out of the country, but this time a Japanese man has received a stiff sentence for trying to import an assortment of reptiles into Australia.
Australian Customs reports that 40-year-old Katsuhide Naito pleaded guilty in Brisbane District Court last week after being charged for importing “regulated live specimens” and endangered specimens without a permit.
Customs officers at Brisbane International Airport found 39 exotic reptiles when they examined his bags on 22 August 2005.
Customs said when they opened one of Naito’s bags the officers were surprised to see something wriggling — six snakes, four in clear plastic containers and two in shampoo bottles.
In a second piece of luggage was found a further 33 reptiles, including green tree pythons, albino pythons, iguanas, frilled-neck dragons, slider turtles, and tree monitors concealed in speaker boxes and food containers in the bag.
Several of the animals did not survive and the remainder were later destroyed by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service.
Naito was sentenced to three-and-a-half years imprisonment for attempting to import the reptiles.
Familiarity breeds contempt
A judge in Germany is facing up to five years in jail for abuse of his office after he is alleged to have sent text messages to the girlfriend of a defendant he was to sentence.
The 63-year-old justice, named only as Wolfgang W for legal reasons, is said to have sent the 30-year-old woman messages saying he wanted to take her to bed after they went to dinner during her boyfriend’s robbery trial.
But when the judge offered to “lock him up for a long time, so that you can get some peace” she showed the messages to her boyfriend’s lawyer.
The judge has been taken off the case and is facing disciplinary action as well as the charge for abuse of office.
It was pirates that did it
A two-year search using the latest in forensic technology has failed to turn up any clues on the identity of a suspected murder victim found in Brittany, but French police have concluded that pirates were to blame.
The skeleton of the woman, said to be in her 30s, was found in December 2003 near the seaside town of Plouezoc’h.
A 14cm gash in the victim’s skull led police to believe she had been killed with a hatchet or similar sharp object, and they tried searching missing person’s lists and DNA tests to identify her.
The mystery was only solved after radio carbon dating of the bones suggested the woman had died some time between 1401 and 1453.
François Gerthosser of the local police said the case had been closed: “We are satisfied because at least we know the date now. We think it was pirates,” he said.