From: Herld Sun
TOBACCO smugglers are targeting Melbourne following record shipments of “chop chop” and cigarette seizures at Sydney’s docks.
Customs warns Melbourne is the new hot spot for crime gangs shipping cigarettes from Asia and Europe.
Customs regional director of Victoria, Graham Krishof, said shipments were becoming more frequent and syndicates were using sophisticated techniques to hide the contraband.
“There have been more tobacco shipments in Melbourne following a number of detections in Sydney,” Mr Krishof said.
“We do not see big seizures in sea cargo as a daily occurrence, but when we do the shipments are getting bigger. And we are seeing very sophisticated techniques to hide things.”
He said containers 6-12m long were a big area to search.
“Often the goods are professionally manufactured, with the illegal items inside,” he said.
Last year $64.8 million worth of illegal tobacco was found in containers in Melbourne.
Seven separate shipments were detected in the first two months of this year.
One find uncovered a container carrying more than 7.5 million cigarettes.
Packets of illegal cigarettes are sold at corner shops in Melbourne for as little as $9 – almost half price.
Proceeds from tobacco smuggling are often used by crime gangs to fund other illegal activities, including terrorism and drug trafficking.
In a bid to curb the growing illegal imports, the Customs Amendment Bill was passed last year. Tobacco smuggling now carries a 10-year jail penalty.
It is estimated 2 per cent of Australian smokers buy illegal cigarettes and tobacco.