MORE than 400 tonnes of illicit tobacco have been stopped from reaching the black market since the Australian Border Force’s inception two years ago, federal authorities say.
The total duty evaded on the illicit tobacco was estimated at more than $294m.
In that time more than 100 people individuals have been charged with tobacco smuggling, including the recent arrest of two Chinese nationals after the detection of more than 7.4m cigarettes at the Sydney Container Examination Facility (CEF).
The pair allegedly attempted concealing the cigarettes within table tops, the total duty evaded coming to $5m.
In an unrelated case, a further 31 tonnes of tobacco concealed within hessian bags was detected at the Sydney CEF in April, with investigations into this detection being ongoing.
ABF Assistant Commissioner Wayne Buchhorn said illicit tobacco could be sold at more than 60 times its offshore price.
He said the ABF would continue to target organised crime groups involved in this trade.
“Illicit tobacco is an increasingly attractive market to organised criminal syndicates due to the lucrative profits that can be made in evaded tax,” Assistant Commissioner Buchhorn said.
“We’re aware that these profits are often funnelled back into traditional organised crime activities, such as the illicit drugs trade. This is one of the key reasons we’re taking such an active role, not just here, but with our neighbours too.”
The ABF has recently run several workshops with its international partners to help focus regional efforts.
In October 2015, the ABF formed a Tobacco Strike Team (TST) to combat organised criminal syndicates trying to smuggle illicit tobacco.
“The Tobacco Strike Team works closely with intelligence teams, investigative units and with domestic and international partners and collectively the agency is seeing record results,” Assistant Commissioner Buchhorn said.
Illicit tobacco can be imported in cigarette, loose leaf and molasses form and via international mail, air and sea cargo as well as on travellers.