A CONTAINER from China marked “beverages and toilet paper” was actually carrying an illicit cargo of tobacco, the Australian Border Force says.

The ABF says it has smashed an organised criminal syndicate following multiple raids in Sydney’s west. Earlier this month, ABF officers at the Sydney Container Examination Facility targeted a container from China.

The consignment was described as containing ‘beverages and toilet paper’, but an examination revealed it was filled entirely with illicit tobacco products. ABF officers found 1.87m cigarettes and 12 tonnes of loose leaf tobacco, a total evaded duty of $15.9m.

On 7 February 2019, ABF investigators raided 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.

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ABF regional investigations NSW A/g Superintendent John Fleming said the result should send a clear message to organised crime groups.

“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. During the last financial year, the ABF reported more than 110,000 detections of illicit tobacco at the border. The illicit tobacco market in Australia is worth about $600m a year in evaded revenue.

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