THE AUSTRALIAN Border Force has identified six consignments of smuggled tobacco coming into the country, all allegedly linked to one criminal syndicate.
Five of the consignments were discovered after an initial detection of 1.2m cigarettes at the Melbourne Container Examination Facility in a consignment from Malaysia.
On Thursday (21 June) officers raided a property at Burwood East where a further 137,000 cigarettes and a small quantity of crystal methamphetamine was found.
So far a total of 3m cigarettes have been seized, which the ABF estimates are worth about $2.25m in evaded revenue.
ABF officers arrested a 31-year-old Australian national and a 29-year-old Chinese national, who arrived in Australia on a tourist visa this month and allegedly fraudulently obtained a Victorian Learner Permit and registered a business using another name.
ABF Commander Investigations Graeme Grosse said the operation highlighted the extent of the criminality involved in the illicit tobacco market.
“People may think buying a cheap packet of cigarettes under the counter is harmless enough, but the people involved in this industry are serious criminals, in this case with potential links to illicit drugs and identity fraud,” Commander Grosse said.
“The ABF will not tolerate anyone, Australian citizens or foreign nationals, profiting from the illicit importation of tobacco and evasion of revenue. This is why we have made illicit tobacco a priority through our Tobacco Strike Team and why we are now standing up the multi-agency Illicit Tobacco Taskforce.”
“The Taskforce will be specifically targeting high-value syndicates in the illicit market and pursuing the groups involved in these imports, whether they are here or off-shore. Illicit tobacco is big business and we know that a lot of the profits are going to fund other criminal exploits in Australia, and further up the international supply chain,” Commander Grosse said.