POLICE have thwarted an attempt to smuggle almost eight million cigarettes through Port Botany in a sea-cargo consignment.

Authorities have said a Sydney man with connections to outlaw motorcycle gangs was part of the smuggling plot.

A joint investigation known as Operation Kalvari was launched in March. The investigation involves Australian Federal Police; the Australian Border Force Illicit Tobacco Taskforce and Detector Dog Unit; and NSW Police Force Raptor Squad.

The investigation began after ABF officers detected about 800 hidden boxes of cigarettes in a sea cargo consignment at Port Botany.

The goods had been declared as “brake shoe”. A deconstruction of the content of the shipping container revealed almost eight million illicit cigarettes, which had a total customs duty payable of more than $8 million.

On 18 August 2021, members of the AFP, NSW Police Force and ABF raided several addresses in the Sydney suburbs of Bankstown, Bass Hill, Cecil Hills and Kemps Creek. They seized two firearms and steroids.

A 32-year-old Bass Hill man was issued with a court appearance notice for his alleged involvement in the importation of the illicit cigarettes.

ABF special investigations Commander Greg Linsdell applauded the multi-agency commitment to targeting and dismantling the illicit tobacco trade and associated criminal activities.

“This investigation is another glaring example of how entrenched organised crime is in the trade of illicit cigarettes and tobacco,” Commander Linsdell said.

“Australians need to be aware that illicit tobacco isn’t a victimless crime. Everyone involved in the chain, from importers, distributers, sellers to buyers are supporting a market which puts money into the hands of organised criminals and breeds further crime.”

Detective Superintendent Matthew Ciantar said criminal groups will try to illegally import any commodity that they can make money from. Money derived from the proceeds of illicit tobacco are used to fund other criminal activities, and by evading excise or duty, Australians are denied funds that contribute to essential community services.

“State and Commonwealth partnerships are key to dismantling organised crime groups who profit from the importation of illicit commodities into Australia,” Detective Superintendent Ciantar said.

NSW Police Criminal Groups Squad commander Detective Superintendent Grant Taylor said police enjoy close and successful partnerships with other law enforcement agencies and will continue to disrupt organised criminal activity.

“We know that aside from lost revenue which would ordinarily flow to our communities, the money generated from the sale of these cigarettes would likely be used to fund criminal activities,” Detective Superintendent Taylor said.

“Seizures such as this prevent further illegal distribution to retail markets and prevent funding the lifestyles of criminals who choose to operate outside our laws.”