AUSTRALIA’s joint agency Illicit Tobacco Taskforce seized three shipments of illicit tobacco worth more than $11m in evaded duty during the holiday.

On Boxing Day, after a tip from the Korean Customs Service, and with the help of Singapore Customs, the Australian Border Force-led ITTF seized about one million illicit cigarettes from an air cargo shipment at Sydney. The cigarettes were mis-declared at the border with an estimated evaded duty of $1m.

On 27 December, the ITTF was alerted to a shipment arriving into Melbourne that they suspected to be undeclared cigarettes. The ABF examined the container and discovered 9.8 million cigarettes fraudulently declared as “dough mixers”, “cake fridges” and “freezers” and the estimated duty evasion was almost $9m.

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A third sea cargo shipment arrived into Melbourne from Hong Kong in early January and was found to contain more than 1.5 tonnes of rough-cut tobacco hidden in tabletops. This detection was as a result of information passed on from authorities in Hong Kong.

This shipment had an estimated evaded duty value of $1.9m.

“Successful offshore disruption of criminal syndicates who trade in illicit tobacco is only possible through international cooperation and building strong networks overseas,” said Acting Commander ABF Special Investigations, Leo Lahey.

“Effective international partnerships strengthen the ITTF’s detection capabilities and help prevent more illicit tobacco from entering the domestic market,” he said.

“The sharing of intelligence with our overseas counterparts assists foreign law enforcement agencies to dismantle the criminal syndicates trading in illicit tobacco.”

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