THE Australian Border Force has reported seized more than 39m illicit cigarettes in one week in Melbourne.

Assistant customs minister Jason Wood said the cigarettes were worth more than $40 million in evaded duty and their importations were under investigation by the ABF-led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce.

“The profits from the illegal sale of 39 million cigarettes has not made it into the pockets of organised crime,” Mr Wood said.

“Australians who buy illicit tobacco should be aware that the proceeds of these sales are supporting a market dominated by criminal syndicates.”

The detections arrived via sea cargo shipments and were x-rayed.

ADVERTISEMENT  

The shipment declared as synthetic grass which contained 20m cigarettes was not concealed, while a second tobacco shipment declared as glass bottles was concealed behind a cover load and contained 19m cigarettes.

Mr Wood said these detections were another example of the ABF’s commitment to disrupting the illicit tobacco supply.

“Since its establishment the ITTF has effected the seizure of over 67 tonnes of smuggled tobacco and approximately 230 million smuggled cigarettes, protecting more than $264m in duty,” Mr Wood said.

“New organised crime groups are emerging that purely focus on illicit tobacco importation and distribution. To tackle this growing problem the ITTF is positioning itself to identify threats before they arrive at the border to disrupt the flow of illicit tobacco to Australia.” The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is 10 years in jail.

ADVERTISEMENT