From: Australian Border Force
Australian Border Force (ABF) investigators have smashed an organised criminal syndicate involved in both the importation and domestic distribution of illicit tobacco in Sydney, after executing multiple warrants in Sydney’s west.
On 3 February 2019, ABF officers at the Sydney Container Examination Facility targeted a container arriving from China.
The consignment was described as containing ‘beverages and toilet paper’, but an examination of the container revealed it was filled entirely with illicit tobacco products.
ABF officers located 1.87 million cigarettes and 12 tonnes of loose leaf tobacco, which represents a total evaded duty of $15.9 million.
On 7 February 2019, ABF investigators executed multiple warrants at a storage facility in Greenacre, apprehending two people allegedly in the process of unpacking the container.
A 46-year-old man and a 49-year-old man were arrested and taken to Bankstown Police Station, where they were charged with multiple offences under s233 BABAD(2) of the Customs Act 1901.
ABF Regional Investigations NSW A/g Superintendent John Fleming said the result should send a clear message to organised crime groups about the ABF’s ability to investigate, detect, and disrupt illicit tobacco – anywhere in the supply chain.
“This was a brazen attempt by a sophisticated organised crime syndicate to defraud the Commonwealth of $15.9 million of legitimate revenue,” A/g Superintendent Fleming said.
“Individuals must realise that when they buy a packet of illegal cigarettes, they are supporting a market dominated by criminal syndicates who use the profits from illicit tobacco to fund other illegal activities.”
The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.
Targeting and dismantling this criminal activity is an operational priority for the ABF and we are leading the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce, that combines the operational, investigative and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, ATO, Department of Home Affairs, ACIC, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).
In the last financial year, the ABF made more than 110,000 detections of illicit tobacco at the border including almost 240 million cigarettes and 217 tonnes of tobacco, worth more than $356 million in evaded duty.
The illicit tobacco market in Australia is worth about $600 million a year in evaded revenue.